Watched in February

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Plus, Mining Poems or Odes (Callum Rice, 2016) [a short film – free to view on Vimeo].

I’ve decided that I should continue watching films for the Carlos Saura Challenge even if I’m not currently writing (this may mean that I end up reshaping the project, but I’ll cross that bridge later – better to persevere in some form than give it up), hence my watching his two most recent films.

If you’re interested in Spanish language films, Festival Scope is currently showing a selection of films from FICUNAM 2017 (all free to view until 13th March) – expect at least a couple to appear in my equivalent post next month.

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

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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.

5th Festival Márgenes: free to view online 13th-31st December

Festival Margenes 2015

The first online festival in Spain specifically dedicated to films without a commercial release or without access to the normal methods of distribution, Festival Márgenes is now in its fifth year and continues to celebrate and support filmmakers and films committed to offering alternative perspectives on both cinema and society. The full list of criteria that the films have to meet can be found here – but essentially they have to be more than 40 minutes long, to have not been distributed, and to originate from a specific set of countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela). The films can be of any genre, although it’s noticeable that documentaries tend to feature strongly.
The festival takes place in cinemas in Madrid, Monterrey, Barcelona, Montevideo, Córdoba, México DF, and Santiago de Chile from the 3rd December and then moves online from the 13th until the 31st. The films are all available to stream for free (although there are a couple that aren’t viewable outside of specified locations – noted below). There are Spanish subtitles on films that aren’t in Spanish, but as far as I’m aware there are no English subtitles this year. But even if your Spanish is rudimentary, I’d encourage you to give it a go – a) because cinema communicates through visuals (and non-verbal sound) at least as much as it does through verbal interactions, b) you have the chance to watch some films that you possibly won’t encounter elsewhere.
I haven’t had time to start watching the 2015 selection yet, but I wrote about the 4th edition last year and saw several films that I really liked – namely África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014) [UPDATE Oct 2016: the film is available to rent on the Márgenes VOD platform – there’s no indication whether subtitles are included], El gran vuelo / The Great Flight (Carolina Astudillo, 2014) [UPDATE Oct 2016: also available to rent – likewise, no indication of subtitles], and Propaganda (Colectivo MAFI, 2014). Hopefully I’ll manage to watch more this year. The festival prizes have already been awarded (indicated below – but see the website for full details / jury citations and the breakdown of what the prizes entail), so I will prioritise those titles but I also want to see Revolução Industrial [Industrial Revolution] (which I’m sure I read about last year in relation to other festivals), Transeúntes (which was recently at the Seville Film Festival), and the special bonus film (not part of the competition) Ragazzi (Raúl Perrone, 2014) – I saw Perrone’s Favula in Barcelona earlier in the year (my review) and would like to see if his other films maintain the fevered rarity of that one. So basically I need more hours in the day between now and the end of the year.
It’s also worth pointing out that Márgenes has its own VOD catalogue outside of the festival – a mixture of shorts and features (some viewable for free, others pay-per-view for a modest fee) and all at the more original and idiosyncratic end of Spanish production, including several films I’ve written about previously (for example, Edificio España (Víctor Moreno, 2013) and Branka (Mikel Zatarain, 2013)).

Anyway, the full list of films in the 2015 official selection is below – clicking on the title will take you to the streaming page for that film. I will post something further when I’ve managed to watch some of the films. UPDATE (28/12/15): I’ve started watching the films and will add * next to the title if I find that they have English subtitles (note: I’m only going to have time to watch a few, so if you’re interested I suggest that you try streaming them to see whether subtitles appear). UPDATE (Oct 2016): several of the films from this collection are now available to rent on the Márgenes VOD platform – note that subtitles aren’t mentioned, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any (that was also the case during the festival period and all of the ones that I watched had subs).

Alexfilm (Pablo Chavarría, 2015), Mexico, 60 min.
As cidades e as trocas (Luísa Homem and Pedro Pinho, 2014), Portugal, 139 min.
El corral y el viento* (Miguel Hilari, 2014), Bolivia, 55 min. BEST FILM
La extranjera (Miguel Ángel Blanca, 2015), Spain, 70 min [only available in Spain].
La maldad* (Joshua Gil, 2015), Mexico, 74 min. SPECIAL MENTION BY THE JURY
La sombra* (Javier Olivera, 2015), Argentina, 72 min. CAMIRA PRIZE
L’Esma del Temps (El Sentido del Tiempo) (Alexandra Garcia-Vilà, Marta González, Marta Saleta, 2015), Spain, 54 min. HONORARY MENTION
Microbús (Alejandro Small, 2014), Peru, 44 min.
Navajazo (Ricardo Silva, 2014), Mexico, 75 min. [only available in Spain, Mexico, Chile & Uruguay].
Next (Elia Urquiza, 2015), Spain / USA, 72 min.
Revolução Industrial (Frederico Lobo and Tiago Hespanha, 2014), Portugal, 72 min.
Tú y Yo (Oriol Estrada and Natalia Cabral, 2014), Dominican Republic, 85 min. EXHIBITION PRIZE
Transeúntes* (Luis Aller, 2015), Spain, 101 min.

Further Adventures in the Carlos Saura Challenge

Carlos Saura Challenge_notebook

The Carlos Saura Challenge began in February 2013 as a way of addressing a gap in my knowledge of Spanish cinema; I was familiar with Cría cuervos and the dance films, but I hadn’t seen any of the other films from Saura’s substantial career. I have made intermittent progress – my initial aim of watching all 37 of his films in the space of a year proved to be wildly unrealistic, but my viewings ground to a halt for months at a time on several occasions. Attempting to watch them chronologically was possibly a mistake – although you can see themes developing by considering them in that order – and in fact I have ended up looping back a couple of times because earlier films that were unavailable suddenly appeared on VOD or another format (his directorial debut – Los golfos / The Delinquents – was shown on 35mm as part of the Viva! film festival in Manchester in early 2014).
I have been surprised by how much I like his early films. Through necessity (to avoid the censor during the dictatorship) many of the early films are metaphorical – which can be something that I find irritating – but whereas I had been under the impression that Saura made very dry and dour films in that period, I found a mischievous sense of humour and someone who (along with producer Elías Querejeta, with whom he made a run of 13 films starting with La caza / The Hunt in 1966) had clearly done his damnedest to foil those who were restricting what could be put on Spanish screens. Censors often failed to appreciate that suggestion can be more powerful and more resonant than a direct depiction. There are also some great performances from José Luis López Vázquez (who I had previously only seen in comedic roles) and Geraldine Chaplin (a revelation) in those early films, most of them probably little known outside of Spain because they haven’t been commercially available in subtitled form (most of the DVDs that I have tracked down do not have subtitles).
I restarted again in January this year with Cría cuervos (the status of which had been putting me off writing about it) and then went backwards to watch La madriguera / Honeycomb. And then I stopped again. So basically I’ve reached the 1970s, I am 10 films into his career (barely a quarter of the way through his total filmography) and currently in a run of films where Geraldine Chaplin gets put through the mill (I’ve got 3 more films to go before they romantically and professionally parted company from what is an actor-director partnership – they made 8 films together – that merits greater critical attention). Next up will be Elisa, vida mía / Elisa, My Life with Chaplin and Fernando Rey – I’m going to aim to cover that at some point during September.

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I’m going to recap the films I’ve written about so far (and link to where I’ve written about them) and list the ones still to come. I usually list things Spanish title / English title the first time I refer to them – if the English title is in square brackets, it’s a literal translation as there is no official English language title. If a title in the list below has ‘VOD’ next to it that means that VOD is currently the only way to view it (click on ‘VOD’ to be taken to where it’s available – Filmin subscriptions can only be purchased within Spain but Filmotech allows you to pay 7€ for a month and watch almost anything on the site), ‘+VOD’ signifies that means that it is also in circulation on DVD, and nothing next to the title means DVD only (many of them are OOP but I’ve indicated if a film is completely unavailable – i.e. no DVD that I’m aware of). Cría cuervos, Blood Wedding, Carmen, El amor brujo, and Tango all have UK DVDs available. The majority of the other films were OOP but Enrique Cerezo’s current crusade to make Spanish cinema classics more readily available (Spanish DVDs always seem to have very limited runs and some disappear very quickly – I acquired most of my Saura DVDs secondhand) means that a few of the Saura/Querejeta collaborations (and some of the director’s later films including El Dorado and ¡Ay, Carmela!) are now available on DVD and Bluray in restored, no-frills editions (no English subtitles as far as I know) through the Divisa label.
01. Los golfos / The Delinquents (1962) [French DVD only] +VOD. Saura’s directorial debut but one that I saw out of sequence because it had long been unavailable in any format. A French DVD (with French subs only) was released in 2013 but I had the chance to see the film on 35mm at Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival in Manchester in 2014 – to date it is the only one of Saura’s films that I have seen on the big screen.
02. Llanto por un bandido / Lament for a Bandit (1964). Heavily censored at the time of its original release, the version I’ve seen suffers from the censor’s interventions. A lesser film in Saura’s filmography although – as with Los golfos – there are already certain elements that will recur throughout his career. It also contains Francisco (Paco) Rabal on scenery-chewing form, Lino Ventura, and a cameo by Luis Buñuel.
03. La caza / The Hunt (1966) +VOD (VOD includes an English subtitle option). Saura’s first masterpiece.
04. Peppermint frappé (1967) +VOD. The most Almodóvarian of Saura’s films (predating the man from La Mancha by several decades) and the first of his collaborations with Geraldine Chaplin (who here plays three women) and José Luis López Vázquez.
05. Stress-es tres-tres / Stress is Three (1968) [unavailable]
06. La madriguera / Honeycomb (1969) VOD. Chaplin again takes on multiple personalities in this blurring of performance, role play, dreams, and reality.
07. El jardin de las delicias / The Garden of Delights (1970). The blurring of dream and reality seen in La madriguera is kicked up a notch in this darkly funny (with a brilliant performance by López Vázquez) and structurally complicated film – the complex intricacy of the structure acted as a smokescreen to distract the censor from some of the more political elements.
08. Ana y los lobos / Ana and the Wolves (1973) +VOD. Chaplin stars alongside Fernando Fernán Gómez in a film where a sense of uneasy foreboding builds to a dark and horrific payoff.
09. La prima Angélica / Cousin Angelica (1974) +VOD. This is probably López Vázquez’s best performance for Saura (although he is never less than great across all of their collaborations) and it is my favourite of the films I’ve watched so far – it deserves to be better known outside of Spain.
10. Cría cuervos / Raise Ravens (1976) +VOD. Probably the director’s best-known film in the UK. Fiona Noble also wrote a guest post about it for the old site.
Still to come…
11. Elisa, vida mía / Elisa, My Life (1977) +VOD (VOD includes an English subtitle option).
12. Los ojos vendados / Blindfolded Eyes (1978) VOD.
13. Mamá cumple 100 años / [Mama Turns 100] (1979).
14. Deprisa, deprisa / Faster, Faster (1981) +VOD.
15. Bodas de sangre / Blood Wedding (1981).
16. Dulces horas / [Sweet Hours] (1982) [unavailable].
17. Antonieta (1982) [French DVD only].
18. Carmen (1983).
19. Los zancos / [The Stilts] (1984).
20. El amor brujo (1986).
21. El Dorado (1988) +VOD.
22. La noche oscura / [The Dark Night] (1989).
23. ¡Ay, Carmela! (1990) +VOD.
24. Sevillanas (1992).
25. ¡Dispara! / Outrage (1993).
26. Flamenco (1995).
27. Taxi (1996).
28. Pajarico / [Little Bird] (1997).
29. Tango (1998) +VOD.
30. Goya en Burdeos / Goya in Bordeaux (1999) +VOD.
31. Buñuel y la mesa del rey Salomón / Buñuel and King Solomon’s Table (2001).
32. Salomé (2002).
33. El séptimo día / The Seventh Day (2004) +VOD.
34. Iberia (2005) +VOD.
35. Fados (2007).
36. Io, Don Giovanni / I, Don Giovanni (2010).
37. Flamenco, Flamenco (2010) +VOD.
38. Argentina (2015) [due to premiere at the Venice Film Festival].