Tuesday, 29 March 2011

London Spanish Film Festival -Spring Weekend Edition



The 7th edition of the London Spanish Film Festival will be taking place in September, but for now they are running a Spring Weekend Edition between 1st and 3rd April as a taster. The thriller Los ojos de Julia / Julia’s Eyes (Morales, 2010) is opening the festival and leading lady Belén Rueda will be in attendance along with director Guillem Morales.

The full programme can be seen here
The line-up includes: the documentary Garbo: la espia / Garbo: The spy (Roch, 2009) (trailer), La mosquitera / The Mosquito Net (Vila, 2010) –which I watched it over at Filmin last month, Planes para mañana / Plans for Tommorow (Macías, 2010) (director Juana Macías was nominated for Best New Director at this year’s Goya awards –so a talent to watch) with a Q&A with actress Goya Toledo, 18 comidas / 18 meals (Coira, 2010) (trailer) with a Q&A with director Jorge Coira, and Agnosia (Mira, 2010) with an as-yet-unconfirmed Q&A with director Eugenio Mira.

'Out of Office'

Apologies for the lack of posts last week -as I mentioned in my links roundup on the 18th, I was taking last week off work (technically 'on holiday' although I wasn't actually going away) and thought that I would be unlikely to get any blogging done (as proved to be the case). Due to my own poor health last week (why does that always happen when you finally get time off?), and a dog recuperating from surgery, I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, so I'm afraid that posting will continue to be light for at least another week. I have a project that I'm trying to get off the ground and I haven't had time to watch many films. Once I've got the project up and running I will turn my attention back to Nobody Knows Anybody -next up will probably be something about the early films of Julio Medem.
Bye for now!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Links roundup, 18th March

Spanish cinema-related news items from this week:
Yesterday a member of the Spanish Academy of the Arts and Cinematographic Sciences, and two employees from his production company, were arrested on suspicion of film piracy –specifically uploading copies of films that were made available to members of the Academy in relation to the Goya Awards, but also films that they had access to prior to their release in cinemas (the specific example given is Ispansi (Iglesias, 2011), which was only released a couple of weeks ago). Manuel Sirgo won a Goya for a short animated film in 2002, and is head of the production company 12 Pingüinos Dibujos Animados (12 Animated Penguins). There is a system whereby Academy members can watch the films streamed online by using a special code. The possibility that a member of the Academy was involved in piracy was highlighted in February when, days after the Goya Awards and Álex de la Iglesia’s defense of the Internet, an Academy copy of de la Iglesia’s Balada triste de trompeta suddenly appeared online. El País reports that in his statement to police, Sirgo accused his two employees of having taken his code in order to access the films, but the employees in turn say that he gave the code to them. I’ll return to this story as and when there is more information.
As I’m writing this, I have just seen that the Academy has released a statement in support of Sirgo, saying that they believe his version of events.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Anatomy of a scene: La madre muerta (00:21:12-00:23:11)

Ismael has one of those days where everything goes wrong

This is the start of what will be an occasional feature on the blog. I won't do it for every film I look at, but some films have a scene that just perfectly captures the sensibility and / or themes of the film as a whole. In the case of La madre muerta, I could have chosen the ‘Aguadilu’ scene because that is also a good illustration of the tone of the film and the fine line that it walks between humour and uneasiness. However I’ve chosen this one because a) it is darkly funny, and b) it is a brilliant set piece. Plus it occurs only twenty minutes into the film, so I can’t be accused of spoiling the plot. Juanma Bajo Ulloa considers it to be one of the best sequences in the film because of how it creates a sensation of fear (something is going to happen to the grandmother, but we don’t know exactly what) and combines both suspense and absurd humour.

The story so far: The prologue of the film sees Ismael (Karra Elejalde) shoot and kill a woman who disturbs him during a burglary, and ends with him pointing his shotgun at the head of the woman’s small daughter. Fifteen years later, Ismael spots the girl (Leire -now grown up and played by Ana Álvarez) in the street with her grandmother. Despite the fact that she is mute, and has the mental age of a three-year-old, he becomes convinced that she recognises him and could identify him to the police. As a result, Ismael announces to his girlfriend that he plans to kidnap and kill Leire. In the lead up to this scene, we have seen Ismael tail Leire and her grandmother as they make their way home from the clinic where Leire spends her days. He casually follows them into their apartment block, and then it cuts to….


Thursday, 10 March 2011

Links roundup, 10th March -mainly about Ángel Sala

    The main story of the week is that of Ángel Sala, director of the Sitges Film Festival, who was reported to the Barcelona authorities and accused of exhibiting child pornography, on the basis that A Serbian Film (the ‘plot’ of which includes the rape of a baby and of a five-year-old child) was screened at the Sitges Film Festival last October. This has predictably caused uproar and prompted accusations of censorship, and expressions of disbelief that the judiciary cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality (although, as I understand it, Spanish law does not differentiate between ‘fiction’ and ‘reality’ in terms of images of this kind, and the specific article of the penal code (189.7, according to El País) covers the production, selling, distribution, exhibiting, or facilitating of such images).
     Leaving aside the issue of censorship for one moment, the main point of absurdity seems to be that the person who is facing a prison sentence of three to twelve months (and Sala was formally charged on Wednesday 9th March), is someone who was not directly involved in the making of the film –the letter of support signed by the directors of other Spanish film festivals notes their surprise (and, no doubt, alarm) that it is a cultural programmer who is being pursued, rather than anyone who can even theoretically be held responsible for the film’s content. I hold no brief for A Serbian Film –given what I have read about it (Empire's review –yes, it was released in the UK, although cut by the BBFC- is here), I have no desire to see it. But I am an adult and am capable of making that decision for myself. After Sala was charged on Wednesday, the Sitges Film Festival released a statement making clear: a) their continued support for their director, b) that the film is a work of fiction, and c) that strict precautions were taken to ensure that only adults attended the (one) screening of the film. We can only wait to see what happens next. In the meantime, an online petition in support of Ángel Sala has been started.

Other news-

The on-going story of who will take over from Álex de la Iglesia as President of the Spanish Academy of the Arts and Cinematographic Sciences: last week director Bigas Luna threw his hat into the ring. However the elections are for a team (President and two Vice-Presidents) rather than just a President, so Bigas Luna had been looking for two other people to serve with him. He had said that he wanted someone from the acting community and someone from the production side of filmmaking. Earlier this week it was announced that actress Leonor Watling (Hable con ella / Talk to Her (Almodóvar, 2002), and perhaps more pertinently, Son de mar / Sound of the Sea (Bigas Luna, 2001)) and production manager / line producer Yousaf Bokhari (Balada triste de trompeta (de la Iglesia, 2010)) will stand as the two Vice-Presidents in collaboration with Bigas Luna. As yet no other candidates / teams have announced that they intend to run.


Friday, 4 March 2011

La madre muerta / The Dead Mother (Bajo Ulloa, 1993)



Director: Juanma Bajo Ulloa
Screenplay: Juanma and Eduardo Bajo Ulloa
Cast: Karra Elejalde, Ana Álvarez, Lio, Silvia Marsó
Synopsis: During a burglary, Ismael (Elejalde) casually murders a woman and shoots her young daughter. Fifteen years later, the girl (Leire – Álvarez) is mute and has the mental age of a three-year-old. By chance Ismael sees Leire in the street and becomes convinced that she can recognise him. He decides to kidnap her with the intention of killing her but….
Trailer: here (wordless apart from someone shouting “Leire!”).
Availability: Not available in the UK, but a re-mastered 3-disc ‘edición coleccionista’ (with optional English subtitles for the film) was released in Spain in 2008 and can often be found on Ebay UK and Amazon Marketplace. Is available on Region 1 DVD as well.

‘La madre muerta is the story of a killer without scruples who steals chocolate from a little girl, and of how the little girl takes back the chocolate from her (now) victim years later’ –Juanma Bajo Ulloa (DVD booklet [my translation])

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

More random viewing

Clockwise from top left: Alas de mariposa / Butterfly Wings (Bajo Ulloa, 1991), La mosquitera / The Mosquito Net (Vila, 2010), La madre muerta / The Dead Mother (Bajo Ulloa, 1993), Cachorro / Bear Cub (Albaladejo, 2004).

It had been my intention to start my investigation of directorial debuts with Juanma Bajo Ulloa's Alas de mariposa. But when I watched it (for the first time) I felt indifferent towards it, which has made writing about it quite difficult (I can appreciate that it is 'interesting' style-wise, but it just didn't grab me). So, instead, I'm hoping to post something on his second film, La madre muerta, later this week.
Availability: I bought Alas de mariposa and La madre muerta on DVD online from Spain, La mosquitera is available to watch over at Filmin (here), and Cachorro is available to rent on DVD in the UK.