The 2024 HSBC Spanish Film Festival opens with a stunning homage to cinema

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The 2024 HSBC Spanish Film Festival opens with a stunning homage to cinema

Spanish Film Festival
Words by Staff Writer

It's also a very special profile of Spain’s finest female filmmakers.

It’s fiesta time as the 2024 HSBC Spanish Film Festival, presented by Palace, prepares to set screens alight with a superb selection of the finest new and classic films from Spain and Latin America. The festival’s largest line up to date opens nationally from 11 June at Palace Cinemas, Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas and Luna Palace Cinemas.

Based on a popular novel and directed by multi award-winning director Lone Scherfig, The Movie Teller (La Contadora de Películas) is this year’s star-studded Opening Night selection. A moving tribute to cinema and the magical power of storytelling, the film follows a young woman’s coming-of-age in a Chilean mining town and stars Bérenice Bejo, Antonio de la Torre, Daniel Brühl and brilliant newcomer Alondra Valenzuela.

Spanish Film Festival

  • Canberra 11 June – 10 July:  Palace Electric Cinema
  • Adelaide 12 June – 10 July: Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas
  • Brisbane 13 June – 10 July:  Palace James Street and Palace Barracks
  • Perth 13 June – 10 July: Palace Raine Square Cinemas, Luna Leederville and Luna on SX
  • Melbourne 14 June – 10 July: The Astor Theatre, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Penny Lane, Palace Westgarth, The Kino, Palace Balwyn and Pentridge Cinema
  • Sydney 19 June – 17 July: Palace Norton Street, Palace Moore Park, Palace Central and Chauvel Cinema
  • Byron Bay 21 June – 10 July: Palace Byron Bay
  • Ballina 21 June – 10 July: Ballina Fair Cinemas

Find Melbourne’s latest film, TV, literature and gaming news here.

The 2024 Special Presentation brings together female led films exploring the themes of ‘Liberation, Sexuality and Empowerment’. In the comedic yet sensual drama Mamacruz, Kiti Mánver delivers a compelling central performance as a religiously devout woman in late middle age who rediscovers the transformative power of her own sensuality. Channelling the voices of three women over 65 into one, Memories of a Burning Body (Memorias de un cuerpo que arde) is a heartfelt drama exploring pleasure and desire.

The sixth feature from talented director Juana Macías, The Girls at the Station (Las chicas de la estación), is a powerful drama inspired by real events starring three outstanding newcomers as friends entering adulthood who face incredible obstacles. In dark comedy thriller Something Is About to Happen (Que nadie duerma), Malena Alterio, who was awarded a Goya for her performance, plays a woman whose life takes a definitive turn when she loses her job.

Acclaimed filmmaker Isabel Coixet’s new film, Un Amor, is a striking drama starring Laia Costa and Hovik Keuchkerian as new neighbours in a Spanish rural village who become entangled in a web of passion. Vera and the Pleasure of Others (Vera y el placer de los otros), a comedic and erotic tale about growing up, follows 17-year-old Vera, as she divides her days between volleyball, school, and a secret hobby: listening to other people’s pleasure. The Festival Centrepiece is The Teacher Who Promised the Sea (El Maestro que Prometió el Mar), winner of the Audience award at the 2024 Gaudí Awards. The acclaimed drama, starring Enric Auquer (star of last year’s festival hit Two Many Chefs) and Laia Costa, recounts the moving true story of Antoni Benaiges, a teacher who brought progressive teaching methods to a small village in 1930s Burgos.

Closing the festival is The Holy Mountain (La montaña sagrada), which recently marked its 50th Anniversary and was famously co-funded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surreal and visually stunning avant-garde odyssey has been fully restored in lavish 4K presenting a mesmerising journey through a series of bizarre and symbolic experiences, exploring themes of spirituality, enlightenment, and the quest for transcendence.

Celebrating 120 years since the birth of Salvador Dalí, is a showcase of films from and about the surrealist master. Featuring fabulous archival footage, the documentary Salvador Dalí: In Search of Immortality is an intimate and revelatory examination of the one-of-a-kind genius who managed to live a life that is a work of art unto itself.

Famous Hitchcockian psychological thriller Spellbound follows a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) who helps an amnesiac (Gregory Peck) uncover his true identity and features a not to be missed surreal dream sequence by Salvador Dalí.

Two short films, Un Chien Andalou & L’Age d’Or, will be screened together as one session. A 1929 avant-garde short film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou is a dreamlike, surrealistic exploration of the subconscious whilst L’Age d’Or is a surrealist tale of a man and a woman who are passionately in love, but their attempts to consummate it are thwarted by their families, the Church, and bourgeois society.

This year’s New Spanish Cinema selection embraces a range of styles and subjects from A.I. to the art of winemaking and a biopic of one of Spain’s most beloved comedians. Directed by multiple Goya Award winner David Trueba, drama Jokes and Cigarettes (Saben aquell) stars a transformative David Verdaguer as Eugenio, the famous chain-smoking Catalan comedian of the 1960s and 70s; Rioja: The Land of a Thousand Wines (Rioja, la tierra de los mil vinos) explores the vibrant evolution of the Spanish wine industry through the human stories behind the vines in the famous region of Rioja; and taut political thriller set in the near future Artificial Justice (Justica Artificial), stars Verónica Echegui as a judge who must assess new Artificial Intelligence software for use in the justice system and is drawn into a high stakes conspiracy with powerful interests at play.

Spanish box office hit Checkmates (Menudas Piezas) starring Alexandra Jiménez is based on a powerful and inspiring true story of a group of marginalised schoolkids who set out to win the Spanish Chess Championship against all odds.

Chinas, the superb third feature from writer-director Arantxa Echevarria (Carmen & Lola), is a delicate and fascinating drama about two sisters that explores childhood, belonging, integration and the search for identity. Featuring a cast of up-and-coming talent, The Girls Are Alright (Las chicas están bien) is an enchanting, breezy drama that follows a group of actresses and a writer who come together in a country house for a week to rehearse a play.

Winner of Best Spanish Film at the 2024 Málaga Film Festival, Saturn Return (Segundo premio) is a tale of music and passion with a hypnotic soundtrack. Set in the late 1990s, this story about an indie rock group is inspired by, but not based on, the story of the legendary Spanish band Los Planetas.

An adaptation of the graphic novel from Paco Roca, award-winning drama La Casa starring David Verdaguer (also seen in Jokes and Cigarettes) and Luis Callejo reunites three siblings at their childhood home. In the suspenseful drama Free Falling (Caída libre), Belén Rueda stars as a controlling national rhythmic gymnastics’ coach who does not contemplate failure as an option; In the psychological thriller The Sleeping Woman (La mujer dormida), strange things start happening a nursing assistant to when she becomes attracted to her patient’s husband; and in dramedy A House on Fire (Casa en flames), comedy director Dani de la Orden explores the darker side of families.

The festival is delighted to announce a Spotlight on Spanish director Isabel Coixet with a selection of the acclaimed director’s work presented alongside her newest release Un Amor. Based on the novel The Dying Animal by Philip Roth and starring Ben Kingsley and Penélope Cruz, Elegy explores the themes of love, desire and aging as it follows a distinguished professor who becomes romantically involved with one of his students. Those Who Love (A los que aman), a subversive period piece about love, guilt, and redemption, features a luminous leading performance from Monica Bellucci as a passionate teacher entangled in a tumultuous affair. Yesterday Never Ends (Ayer no termina nunca) is an absorbing character study from Coixet about a couple who reunite after five years apart, with one turning their history into a novel.

The Cine Latino selection includes a quietly powerful Argentinian drama from acclaimed writer/director Paula Hernandez, A Ravaging Wind (El viento que arrasa), that explores a young woman’s path to change her fate. From Mexico, comes Upon Open Sky (A cielo abierto) set in early 1990s Mexico from a screenplay by legendary Mexican scriptwriter Guillermo Arriaga and the acclaimed drama Totem (Tótem) which takes place over the course of a single day in a bustling Mexican household, seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old.

Set in the post #MeToo era is Bad Actor (Un Actor Malo), a nuanced and incisive drama focused on a case of misconduct on a film set that triggers a series of unavoidable events in the search for truth and justice. The Blue Star (La estrella azul) is inspired by the life of 1990s Spanish rock star Mauricio Aznar and his journey through picturesque Argentina to reconnect with his passion for music. And hailing from the Dominican Republic, the science fiction thriller Aire: Just Breathe (Aire) is set in the year 2147 as a conservation biologist battles the extinction of humanity with the help of an A.I. system.

From Colombia comes The Other Son (El otro hijo), an emotionally charged semi-autobiographical tale and a moving portrait of adolescence. The world of wellness is explored in The Practice (La práctica), a witty, dark comedy about two recently separated yoga instructors; plus war-of-the-sexes satire The Tenderness (La ternura) which stars Emma Suárez and Gonzalo de Castro.

Lovers of Spanish comedies will be thrilled with this year’s amusing selection. A box office hit in Spain and the third installment in the highly successful Spanish Affair movie franchise, A Moroccan Affair (Ocho apellidos marroquís) sees the Díaz-Aguirre family’s lives flipped upside down with a trip to Morocco. In Idol Affair (Buscando a Coque) Alexandra Jiménez (also in Checkmates) and Hugo Silva star as a couple who must deal with an unexpected scenario involving the other’s idol.

One Hell of a Holiday (¡Vaya vacaciones!) features an all-star ensemble cast and pays homage to all grandparents, as fun adventures await when two are left looking after their grandchildren.

The 2024 HSBC Spanish Film Festival will take place nationally from 11 June to 10 July (dates vary – and ending 17 July in Sydney) in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Ballina and Byron Bay. Tickets are now on sale.

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