Hamada (Eloy Domínguez Serén, 2018)

Image from the documentary Hamada
Zaara and Sidahmed in Hamada

I went to Edinburgh for the day at the weekend in order to catch two documentary films with Spanish connections at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Hamada (Eloy Domínguez Serén, 2018) and La ciudad oculta / The Hidden City (Víctor Moreno, 2018). I’m not going to write about the latter at the moment (I would need to see it again first) – although I would recommend it, if you get the chance to see it (an immersive non-narrative experience into the underground world beneath Madrid, it put me in mind of both Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce, 2015) and Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)).

Hamada is not technically a Spanish film (although the documentary’s subject matter relates to Spain’s colonial past), but Eloy Domínguez Serén is one of the Galician filmmakers whose work I have written about previously – and I’ll be looking out for his name in the future because this is a gem of a film. My Eye for Film review of Hamada can be found here.

5 Spanish Picks for Edinburgh 2019

EIFF 2019 runs 19th – 30th June, and earlier this week they announced their full programme. As I’ve previously highlighted, their Country Focus this year is Spain – so having seen the details of the full programme, I thought that I’d pick out five Spanish-related recommendations.

Apuntes para una película de atracos / Notes for a Heist Film (Elías León Siminiani, 2018)

This is on my list of Spanish films from last year that I want to catch up with both because I liked León Siminiani’s previous film (Mapa (2012), which likewise took the director as a central figure within the film, although that was more of a personal narrative), and also because it looks deadpan funny. It is not available on DVD, but it is on Filmin (without subtitles). Ticket details (two screenings).

 

Arrebato / Rapture (Iván Zulueta, 1979)

I’ve already made my love for this film clear in the past – I’ve not had the chance to see it on the big screen (and I can’t go to Edinburgh on the day that it’s screening), and would encourage anyone who will be at EIFF to get a ticket NOW. Out of all of the Spanish retrospective titles, this should be your priority. Ticket details (one screening).

 

La ciudad oculta / The Hidden City (Víctor Moreno, 2018)

I mentioned this one at the end of my 2018 round-up (which mainly detailed things that I hadn’t seen yet). Moreno’s previous film, Edificio España / The Building (2013) (which I wrote about at length here – and also recommend), captured the deconstruction (and intended refurbishment) of a skyscraping monument to Franco – this one appears to be the inverse, as he explores deep underground and the hidden realm under the city of Madrid. Longtime readers will know that I can’t resist films that explore unusual architectural spaces. Ticket details (two screenings).

 

Icíar Bollaín retrospective

Yes, I’m cheating here by picking a group of films rather than singling out one. Contrary to my initial impression when they first announced this retrospective, it does look like they are screening all of the feature films directed by Bollaín. I think that Te doy mis ojos / Take My Eyes (2003) is the best encapsulation of her career; it is not an easy watch (characteristically nothing is sugarcoated or simplified neatly to reassure audience expectations), but boasts two outstanding performances from Laia Marull and Luis Tosar. The bulk of Bollaín’s films are available on DVD with subtitles (some of them only as imports from Spain, but some have UK editions) and in those circumstances I tend to prioritise titles that aren’t available (or aren’t available with subtitles in a home viewing format), which in this case would point you to ¿Hola, estás sola? / Hi, Are You Alone? (1995 – Bollaín’s feature debut as a director) and Flores de otro mundo / Flowers from Another World (1999). Collectively the films illustrate Bollaín’s interest in the breadth of female experience, be that in family, love, or work – each film manages to encompass a range of lives and experiences, all looked at with compassion and solidarity. You can find ticket details for individual films by clicking on the titles on this summary page.

 

Shorts from Galicia

Fajr (Lois Patiño, 2016)

The Galician shorts included in the programme are:

  • Fajr (Lois Patiño, 2016)
  • Homes / Men (Diana Toucedo, 2016)
  • A liña política / The Policy Line (Santos Díaz, 2015)
  • Matria (Álvaro Gago, 2017)
  • A nena azul / The Blue Child (Sandra Sánchez, 2018)
  • Rapa das bestas / Wild Mane Crop (Jaione Camborda, 2017)

I have written about a selection of Galician shorts previously (in relation to Curtocircuito in 2015), and will happily recommend anything that features work by Lois Patiño sight-unseen – unfortunately I won’t be in Edinburgh on the day this programme screens, otherwise this would definitely be something I would attend. Ticket details (one screening). There is also a programme of contemporary Spanish short films, which will undoubtedly also be worth checking out – Spain has a rich culture of short filmmaking, and you can frequently encounter genuine innovation and experimentation within shorts in a way that doesn’t necessarily often get seen in relation to features.

I will be reviewing a few of the Spanish films for Eye for Film (I seem to own most of the retrospective titles on DVD), so expect further posts on Spanish films at EIFF next month.

EIFF Country Focus 2019: Spain

Arrebato

I spotted via Eye for Film the announcement that the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s 2019 Country Focus (a recurring strand of the festival’s programme) will be Spain. What they’ve announced so far is the retrospective part of the strand: an overview of ‘modern Spanish cinema’; a selection of ‘cult Spanish cinema’; and a filmmaker retrospective of Icíar Bollaín.

Bollaín is based in Edinburgh, so that element kind of makes sense. I like a lot of her films (I haven’t seen the two most recent ones), and I admire her commitment to exploring social issues through cinema, and her recurrent focus on the lives of women in varying circumstances. It’s a little strange that they don’t seem to be screening Te doy mis ojos / Take My Eyes (2003); it is effectively an encapsulation of her interests and cinematic style. Personally, I think that it’s her strongest film. But, that said, perhaps it is relatively well known and they’re aiming to highlight films that haven’t had distribution over here (although También la lluvia / Even the Rain (2010) and El Olivo / The Olive Tree (2016) are included)? I would recommend Flores de otro mundo / Flowers of Another World (1999), Even the Rain, and En tierra extraña / In a Foreign Land (2014) if you get the chance to see them.

Voyeurism connects the three cult titles (‘home movies’ / the terrible lure of the camera is another strong link between two of them). Arrebato (Zulueta, 1980) is the lesser-known in the UK (the other two are both available on UK DVD) and is definitely worth checking out if you get the opportunity (I’ve written about the spellbinding nature of Zulueta’s film maudit previously).

But ‘the retrospective celebration of modern Spanish cinema’ is just…odd. I don’t mind the films individually – although I was among the minority that didn’t overly like La piel que habito / The Skin I Live In (Almodóvar, 2011) – but they are not collectively a good illustration of ‘modern Spanish cinema’ in its actual diversity (yes, the selected films span multiple genres, but that isn’t what I mean by cinematic diversity – i.e. a range of voices, styles, and budgets). ‘[S]ome of the finest Spanish cinema of recent times’ is making that ‘some’ do a lot of heavy lifting. ‘Films that have been nominated for Goyas in the last decade’, perhaps. Putting Tarde para la ira / The Fury of a Patient Man (Arévalo, 2016) to one side because I still haven’t watched it (aiming to over Christmas) and I have only heard good things about it, I think that there are more interesting, distinctive, and/or innovative films that have been made in Spain in the last decade (off the top of my head, Diamond Flash (Vermut, 2011), L’accademia della muse / The Academy of Muses (Guerin, 2015), De tu ventana a la mía / Chrysalis (Ortíz, 2012), many films within the Novo Cinema Galego, El Futuro / The Future (López Carrasco, 2013), La distancia / The Distance (Caballero, 2014), Dead Slow Ahead (Herce, 2015), for starters). Those films might not be for everyone (I’m wracking my brains trying to think of a ‘recent’ Spanish film I’ve liked that’s had an A-to-B-to-C style narrative structure, or otherwise been a box-office smash, so I accept that the films that interest me tend to be outside of the mainstream [although not exclusively]) but innovation and different perspectives should be celebrated alongside mainstream commercial cinema, especially at film festivals.

Anyway, I’ll keep an eye out for them announcing the ‘separate programme of contemporary Spanish cinema’ (which may not be until the full programme is revealed in May). Personal wish list (although I won’t hold my breath): Petra (Rosales, 2018); Entre dos aguas (Lacuesta, 2018); Quién te cantará (Vermut, 2018); Trote (Baño, 2018); Viaje al cuarto de una madre (Rico Clavellino, 2018); Carmen y Lola (Echevarria, 2018); and Apuntes para una película de atracos (Siminiani, 2018).

7th Festival Márgenes: free to view online, 2nd-23rd December 2017

I’ve written about each edition of Festival Márgenes since 2014, usually in the form of an overview but sometimes going into a bit of detail about films I’ve particularly liked (click on the year for the relevant post: 2014, 2015, 2016). The festival focuses on films without distribution, made on the margins (or outside) of existing film industries in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and Ibero-America (Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Latin American countries). Standouts from previous editions include África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014), El gran vuelo (Carolina Astudillo, 2014), La sombra (Javier Olivera, 2015), No Cow on the Ice (Eloy Domínguez Serén, 2015), and Pasaia bitartean (Irati Gorostidi, 2016).

The films included in the 2017 edition (links take you to the relevant streaming page – you need to register with the site to get started):

The Luis Ospina retrospective includes 20 films (shorts and features), also free to view. No indication is given about subtitles, but generally those films not in Spanish have (Castillian) Spanish subtitles and often a lot of the Spanish-language films have English subtitles – but as I’ve said in relation to previous editions, they’re all free to view, so it won’t cost you anything to just click on one and see if subtitles appear.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’m intending to watch the films by Gabriel Azorín, María Cañas, and Luis Macías as a starting point. But my experience of Festival Márgenes is that they always have a really strong line-up – I usually only manage to watch a handful of films from a given edition but I’ve never watched a dud – so although some of the films might not be your kind of thing, you should be able to find something interesting that you would not otherwise get the chance to see.

6th Festival Márgenes: free to view online, 11th – 31st December

6th-margenes-festival

I have previously written about the 4th and 5th editions of this Spanish online festival. Specifically dedicated to films – from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and Ibero-America (Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Latin American countries) – whose form, style, or duration mean that they will struggle to access the normal distribution routes or obtain a commercial release, Márgenes initially takes place in key cities in Spain, Mexico, Chile and Uruguay at the start of December, before moving online during the second half of the month. Documentaries and experimental films tend to dominate the selection.
The online side of the festival makes the films free to view. Sometimes there are rights restrictions on specific titles in certain countries – at the moment Generación Artificial and Santa Teresa y otras historias aren’t visible to me, but I don’t know if that’s a rights issue or just a glitch on the website. Films that aren’t in Spanish tend to have Spanish subtitles, but in past years the majority of the Spanish-language films have had English subtitles. The subtitles aren’t listed on the website – I’ve put a * next to the trailer links below where the festival has used a trailer with English subtitles, which is often a good indication of there being subs on the film as well [UPDATE: this hasn’t been a good indicator this time around]. But given that the films are free to view, you aren’t going to lose anything by starting a film to see whether subtitles appear. I never manage to watch everything, but I will update this post to indicate the presence of subtitles on any films I watch [UPDATE: I’ve watched two and looked at a third – I’ve added the subtitle info below].
The previous editions I’ve explored have revealed gems such as África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014), El gran vuelo / The Great Flight (Carolina Astudillo, 2014), and La sombra (Javier Olivera, 2015) (the latter was my favourite in last year’s festival). I can recommend No Cow on the Ice (I reviewed it earlier this year) and personally will be aiming to at least catch Pasaia bitartean, Santa Teresa y otras historias (if it’s available), and Las letras (on the basis that I’ve read positive things about them in relation to other film festivals). The festival announced its prizes yesterday – I’ve marked the winners below as well.
This is the line-up of titles in the 2016 official selection (clicking on the title will take you to the streaming page for that film):

> Arreta (Raquel Marques and María Zafra, 2016, Spain – 60 min) *trailer
> Generación Artificial / Artificial Generation (Federico Pintos, 2015, Argentina – 62 min) *trailer
> Historias de dos que soñaron / Tales of Two Who Dreamt (Andrea Bussmann and Nicolás Pereda, 2016, Mexico/Canada – 82 min) *trailer
> CAMIRA PRIZE: Il solengo (Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis, 2015, Italy/Argentina – 66 min) trailer
> Inadaptados (Kikol Grau, 2015, Spain – 41 min)
> BEST FILM: Las letras / The Letters (Pablo Chavarría Gutiérrez, 2015, Mexico – 77 min) [with English subtitles] trailer
> SPECIAL MENTION BY THE JURY: No Cow on the Ice (Eloy Domínguez Serén, 2015, Spain – 63 min) *trailer
> Panke (Alejo Franzetti, 2016, Argentina/Germany/Burkina Faso – 46 min) *trailer
> NUMAX EXHIBITION PRIZE: Parábola del retorno (Juan Soto, 2016, Colombia – 41 min) trailer
> Pasaia bitartean (Irati Gorostidi, 2016, Spain – 51 min) [Castilian Spanish subs] *trailer
> Placa Madre / Motherboard (Bruno Varela, 2016, Mexico/Bolivia – 54 min) trailer
> Santa Teresa y otras historias / Saint Teresa and Other Stories (Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, 2015, Dominican Republic/USA/Mexico – 65 min) [no subs] *trailer
> Yo me lo creo (Terrorismo de Autor, 2016, Spain – 40 min) trailer

The Márgenes Festival 2016 also includes a retrospective of the work of Lluís Escartín, titled ‘no tengo nada que decir, prefiero escuchar. 30 años documentando lo invisible‘ [I don’t have anything to say, I prefer to listen: 30 years documenting the invisible], and a cycle dedicated to Chilean director José Luis Torres Leiva, ‘Un lugar en el mundo‘ [A place in the world] – they are likewise free to view online until 31st December.

Iberodocs 2016

iberodocs_banner

The 3rd edition of Iberodocs takes place in Edinburgh later this week from Wednesday 4th – Sunday 8th and there is plenty in their programme to recommend. Of the films I’ve seen, I’d recommend Llévate mis amores (which was my favourite documentary at last year’s EIFF), O Futebol and No Cow on the Ice – and also the shorts Ser e voltar (which is paired with the latter feature – both are by Galician filmmakers) and Sin Dios ni Santa María (which appears in the main shorts programme) – but I’ve also heard good things about Rio Corgo and Volta à terra, so I think that the festival is pretty jam-packed with things worth seeing. I have previously reviewed (in relation to different festivals) three of the films that are being shown and I have written another three this past weekend. I will add the links below as they are published over at Eye for Film.

These are likely to be my last reviews for a while, but I hope to get back to writing on here regularly.

Festival Report: AV Festival 2016

Spare Time01

I’ve written a festival report for desistfilm focussing on the AV Festival’s ‘Resistance’ strand, which spanned 80 years of British documentary filmmaking. The report is here.

 

Reviews: AV Festival 2016

The AV Festival runs from 27th February – 27th March. That’s an unusually long runtime for a festival but there are events and screenings spread throughout that whole month, so my reviews will be appearing over the same time period. That said, quite a lot of the films being shown are ones that I either own on DVD or can access via VOD (for a lower price than a cinema ticket), so I’m currently attempting to get a head start on my reviews by watching those films at home. I’m aiming to review 20 films overall, some of which are screening during the last weekend of the festival so I will add titles and links to this post as and when the reviews go online. The first batches of reviews are for collections of shorts but almost all of the rest will be standalone features.

British Doc shorts

1930s – 40s British Documentary Movement –

Showing as part of the ‘Resistance: British Documentary Film’ strand, this collection of four shorts from the 1930s and 40s picks up on some of the same issues raised by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier – namely poor housing conditions and precarious employment in industrial areas. According to the festival’s website, the screening at the Tyneside Cinema on 1st March will show them on 35mm – I watched them on the BFI’s 4-disc boxset, Land of Promise.

 

Jennings_Finest Hour

Finest Hour: Films by Humphrey Jennings –

Jennings is perhaps the best-known name among the British documentary makers of the era and is rightly revered for his poetic artistry. What I’ve liked most though is his eye for the small details – often moments of happenstance – that have the spark of real life rather than something stiltedly staged (or self-consciously presented) for the camera. Some of his films are in the Land of Promise boxset – and the BFI also has three volumes of DVDs dedicated to the director – but several of them (indicated below) are also available to watch for free on the BFI Player.

 

A Dream from the Bath01

Between Times: Marc Karlin –

On the weekend of Friday 4th – Sunday 6th March, AV Festival are focussing on director Marc Karlin (details here) who spent several decades as a filmmaker consistently questioning and critiquing the British Left. I will only manage to see a couple of his films during the festival, but almost all of the films that are being screened (including the five on Nicaragua) are also available to rent on Vimeo courtesy of the Marc Karlin Archive (here) – I’m certainly planning to investigate his other works.

 

Nightcleaners01

Nightcleaners 

This documentary about the 1970-72 campaign to unionise the cleaners who worked overnight in London office blocks was screened on International Women’s Day. I didn’t have time to write about it until two days later, by which time I felt that something of its quicksilver and abstract nature had already slipped beyond my grasp. It is by no means ‘difficult’ viewing (I hadn’t been sure what to expect – it caused a stir in academic circles at the time of its original release and a lot of the contemporaneous writing about it seems to verge on the incomprehensible) but it is a film of many layers. It is also the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

 

Revue01

Levels of Democracy: Ukrainian Film Weekend

This weekend (18th-20th March) the AV Festival is focussing on radical Ukrainian documentary. Within that context they are creating a profile of Sergei Loznitsa by screening three of his films – his latest, The Event (2015), as well as Maidan (2014) and Revue (2008). I was supposed to be seeing The Event and two classics from the silent era – Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930) and Enthusiasm (Symphony of the Donbas) (Dziga Vertov, 1930) – but that is not how my weekend has turned out, so there will only be my review of Revue (available on DVD in a set with his films Blockade and Landscape, which is how I saw it) for this section of the festival. If you’re interested in Loznitsa, Maidan is also available on DVD and the majority of his other documentaries are available as VOD on the Doc Alliance site (note: I wasn’t overly fussed by Revue but I like some of his other films considerably more).

  • Revue (Sergei Loznitsa, 2008)

 

Refuge England01

March to Aldermaston: Free Cinema

As part of the ‘Resistance: British Documentary Film’ strand, the festival is screening a showcase of shorts from the Free Cinema movement – March to Aldermaston (Lindsay Anderson, 1959), Refuge England (Robert Vas, 1959), and We Are the Lambeth Boys (Karel Reisz, 1959). The latter two are available to watch for free on the BFI Player – here and here respectively.

That’s it from me in terms of AV Festival reviews. My report on the British documentary section will appear after Easter.

Preview: AV Festival 2016

AV Festival_theme

“Meanwhile, what about Socialism? It hardly needs pointing out that at this moment we are in a very serious mess, so serious that even the dullest-witted people find it difficult to remain unaware of it. We are living in a world in which nobody is free, in which hardly anybody is secure, in which it is impossible to be honest and remain alive.” – George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

I’ve written a preview of the forthcoming AV Festival 2016 over at Eye for Film. The festival takes George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) as its thematic inspiration, asking “Meanwhile, what about Socialism?”. As I explain within the preview, AV Festival 2016 is billed as ‘Part 1’ in relation to Orwell’s book (which is divided into two parts) with ‘Part 2’ intended to arrive in two year’s time in the form of the festival’s 2018 edition (it’s a biennial festival). I read the book last month and was startled by how much of what Orwell observed and criticised in the late-1930s is still with us in 2016 – it is well worth reading. I’m looking forward to discovering how the festival has interpreted it, not least because I’ve hardly seen anything that they’ve programmed.

Eye for Film have also made a page with the full film listings of the festival – you can see that there is a lot of variety arranged around three themed weekends. I’ll be seeing a bit of everything, including several of the films at the last of those weekends – Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend – but my main focus will be the British documentary strand, which is woven throughout the programme over the course of the whole month. I’m also hoping to get to some of the exhibitions and installations that will be at various locations around the city. You can find the full details on the festival’s website – here.

Due to the timescale over which the festival is spread, I will manage to review / write about more individual films than I normally get the chance to at a single festival. I’ll be writing reviews for Eye for Film and a report on the British documentaries for desistfilm. My reviews are already starting to appear, so I will make a separate post tomorrow for the various links.

 

Festival Report: Asturian shorts

Cuenta con nosotros_Dani Pérez Prada and David Pareja

More than 70 shorts were screened in Gijón – films from around the world, in and out of competition. I concentrated on the Spanish ones (for obvious reasons) but even then I didn’t manage to see all of them. In the end I’ve written about some of the ones that were in the Asturian section – I’m not familiar with cinema from the region, so this seemed like a good place to start. If you cast your mind back to my Gijón dispatches, you may remember that I had one evening when I wasn’t well and ended up returning to the hotel rather than going to the final session of the night. That session was for the Asturian films that were in competition, so I’d like to thank Alicia Albares, Roberto F. Canuto, Pablo A. Neila, Kiko and Javier Prada, Pablo Vara, Daniel Vázquez, and Benjamín Villaverde for giving me access to their respective films after the fact. For reasons of space, I could only focus on three of the films in my report, but hopefully I will have the occasion to write about the others in the future. My report can be found over at Eye for Filmhere.