If the only Spanish filmmaker you’re familiar with right now is the fantastic Pedro Almodóvar, get ready to expand your horizons. Celebrating its eighth year as a sidebar section of the European Union Film Festival, the Festival of New Spanish Cinema offers audiences a glimpse at some of the riskiest and innovative films that have come out of Spain over the last year.
The EU Film Festival takes place from March 6 through April 2, 2015 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. The four films that make up the Festival of New Spanish Cinema this year will each screen twice during that time: The Kid (Sunday, March 8, 4:30 pm and Wednesday, March 11, 7:30 pm); Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (Friday, March 13, 6:00 pm and Sunday, March 15, 3:00 pm); In a Foreign Land (Saturday, March 21, 7:00 pm and Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 pm); and Magical Girl (Saturday, March 28, 3:00 pm and Wednesday, April 1, 7:30 pm).
From a fast-paced action movie and a road-trip comedy to a historical documentary and violent thriller, Spanish film is jumping the pond and landing in Chicago, so don’t miss your chance to check out some of the amazing films. Start circling your calendars.
Here’s a closer look at all four.
An action-packed thriller from Spanish director Daniel Monzón (Cell 211), the film follows title character and motorboat driver El Niño (Jesús Castro) who is hired by a Muslim drug dealer to become a mule and transport his illegal product via motorboat across the Strait of Gibraltar. On his heels is a veteran cop (Luis Tosar) who would like nothing more than to bring down El Niño or any other drug dealers, including El Inglés (Ian McShane), working on the Strait. Already critically-acclaimed in its home country, the film racked up 17 Goya Award nominations this year, including Best Film and Best Director.
Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados
Set in Spain in 1966, Spanish writer/director David Trueba’s comedy/drama, the title of which comes from a line from The Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” tells the story of Antonio (Javier Cámara), a high school English/Latin teacher who decides to go on a road trip to southeast Spain for a chance to meet his idol John Lennon. Along the way he picks up a pair of hitchhikers (Francesc Colomer and Natalia de Molina), both of whom are escaping from their past, and take them along for an adventure. In 2014, Living is Easy won six Goya Awards, including Best Film, Director, Actor, and Screenplay.
En tierra extraña
Spanish director Icíar Bollaín, who directed Gael García Bernal in the 2010 film Even the Rain, turns from narrative filmmaker into documentarian for this film about a group of young Spanish immigrants who must move to Edinburgh, Scotland because of the recession and the inability to find employment in their country. Among the workers is Gloria, a teacher from Spain who creates a collective called “Ni perdidos ni callados” (Not lost and not silenced) where her and her fellow Spaniards are able to voice their frustrations about having to move from their homeland because of the lack of opportunities in the work force.
Unemployed schoolteacher Luis (Luis Bermejo) will do anything to fulfill the wish of his dying daughter Alicia (Lucia Pollan) and buy her an expensive dress inspired by her favorite Japanese anime series. When he turns to blackmail to get the money, his life and the life of a mentally ill woman (Bárbara Lennie) he cons are thrown into disrepair. This is director Calros Vermut’s follow-up to his 2011 cult Spanish film Diamond Flash, which also tells the story of a desperate parent. The film was nominated for six Goya Awards this year, earning one for Best Actress (Lennie). Director Pedro Almodóvar praised Vermut’s work as “la gran revelación del cine español en lo que va de siglo.”