At some point it became un-PC to like Spain. I get it, colonialism leaves scars. It’s hard to forget those atrocious crimes you read about in a history book and never experienced. But, face it we all got some españa in us. We share language, culture, and DNA. (Don’t pretend like you weren’t telling everyone that you’re “part Spanish” after they won the World Cup.)
We also share a faltering economy. In times like these, when it’s hard for anyone to put together enough money to make a movie, collaboration is key. Spanish and Latin American co-productions are at an all-time high. This in part has led to a resurgence in the amount of movies produced each year. Spanish Cinema Now is a showcase of the country’s filmmaking talent, both old and new. The Lincoln Center film series includes recent releases, co-productions, this year’s Oscar contender, and a 10-film tribute to Luis García Berlanga, one of Spain’s greatest directors.
¡Oye tio! Go watch some peliculas.
Black Bread (Pa negre)
Agustí Villaronga, 2010 | Country: Spain | Running time: 108m
Check out one of Spain’s biggest hits of 2011 and their entry for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. “In this drama set in the harsh postwar Catalan countryside, a child belonging to the losing side finds the corpses of a man and his son in the forest. The authorities want his father to be held responsible for the deaths, but the child tries to help him by finding out who truly killed them.”
Chema de la Peña, 2011 | Country: Spain | Running time: 97m
“On February 23, 1981, a group of about 200 Civil Guards, led by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, burst onto the floor of the Cortes (the Spanish congress), firing guns and demanding that the King announce the end of Spain’s just emerging democracy. Chema de la Peña brings this watershed moment of Spanish history—whose reverberations can still be felt today—to vibrant life, moving from the conspirators to those who oppose them to the King, who prepares to make the most important speech of his life.” I mostly just want to see if the film is as exciting as the real-life footage.
José y Pilar
Miguel Gonçalves Mendes, 2011 | Country: Spain/Portugal | Running time: 125m
“Co-produced by Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar together with Fernando Meirelles, this affectionate portrait of Portugal’s Nobel Prize winner José Saramago reveals the struggle between the very private man and the world-famous artist. A modestly successful writer at home, he became an international literary giant through the prodding of his Spanish wife, Pilar del Rio. According to Saramago, “I have ideas for novels, and Pilar has ideas for life.” The film captures the media whirlwind that surrounds the Saramagos after the prize, as well as the quiet, tender moments the couple shared as his health began to fail.” I have to admit I had already decided I wanted to see it after reading, “Co-produced by Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar” only because I’m an Almodovar groupie. But, the trailer made me want to watch it even more. I predict this might be my favorite Spanish film of the year.
Luis García Berlanga Retrospective
The late Luis García Berlanga is a legendary director who is credited with reinvigorating the Spanish film scene in the early Fifties. At a time when few films were being made, Berlanga challenged the Franco dictatorship with humor and satire as his weapons. He was cleverly able to get past the censors and had a prolific career throughout the dictatorship. After the fall of Franco he continued to make films even up until his eighties. Of the ten film tribute, if you can only see a few, try one of these.
The Executioner (El Verdugo)
Luis García Berlanga, 1963 | Country: Spain/Italy | Running time: 90m
“Berlanga’s masterful, darkly comic tale of a man who may inherit the job of state executioner from his bride’s father. The movie caused international discord when it screened at the Venice Film Festival, owing to the Franco regime’s sensitivity over political executions.”
“Two of Berlanga’s most acclaimed films screen back-to-back on December 15. His beloved debut, Welcome Mr. Marshall! (1953), follows a village’s misbegotten attempts to finagle post-war American aid from visiting officials, while Plácido (1961) is a winking Oscar-nominated Christmas story about a town where affluent families each take in a poor person for the holiday. Both are considered to be among Berlanga’s masterpieces.” These two are Berlanga at his best, satirical and poignant. Who else can make a comedy about the Marshall Plan?
Welcome Mr. Marshall! (¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall!)
Luis García Berlanga, 1953 | Country: Spain | Running time: 95m
Luis García Berlanga, 1961 | Country: Spain | Running time: 87m
Spanish Cinema Now runs through December 22. Screenings are held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater (located at 165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway).