December 2008, Volume 12, Number 10

Cultural Spotlight

New festival celebrates Spanish film

Three stills from films presented at the Festival of New Spanish Cinema.


The journey began in Estella, a small Spanish town where everybody knows everybody else’s business and a secret is hard to keep.

That setting for Bajo las estrellas (Under The Stars), a remarkable debut feature film by renowned short film director Félix Vizcarret, kicked off the Festival of New Spanish Cinema, organized by Pragda, a cultural initiative promoting Spanish films. The five-day event was presented by the Miami International Film Festival, a Miami Dade College cultural experience.

“We love Spanish film, so when Pragda called us to collaborate with them, there was no question we wanted to do this,” said Diana Salcedo, filmmaker services coordinator.

Miami’s Tower Theater, operated by MDC’s cultural affairs department, was the first stop in the event’s U.S. tour, which will now go to Seattle, Portland, Chicago and Houston.

Spanish actor Javier Bardem’s 2008 Oscar win and the critical and commercial success of Spanish features like Pan’s Labyrinth and Volver (starring Penelope Cruz) have confirmed for American audiences the complexity and uniqueness of the Spanish artistic scene. The festival allowed local audiences to experience the latest Spanish productions.

Pragda gathered an array of entertaining, artistic, controversial and highly acclaimed films, such as Under The Stars, which earned lead actor Alberto San Juan a 2008 Goya Award, Spain’s equivalent of an Academy Award. Writer and director Viscarret also received prestigious festival awards for his work on the film.

The Festival of New Spanish Cinema also screened the documentary Septiembres, directed by Carles Bosch, who received an Academy Award nomination for Balseros in 2004. In Septiembres, which had its premiere at MIFF earlier this year, Bosch follows four men and four women in prison. Spanning a year – from September to September – the film portrayed their love stories. Despite the hostile environment, this film displayed extraordinary emotion and it was an inspiration to all who watched it.

The festival displayed the unparalleled creativity for Spanish short filmmakers. Shorts included Libra, a four-minute film by director Carlota Coronado, which reports on everyday issues with great impact. The Goya-nominated El viaje de Said (Said’s Journey), a 12-minute animated short from director Coke Riobóo, is the story of Said, a Moroccan boy who crosses the Straights to discover that in the land of opportunity, the world is not as beautiful as he had been told.

The festival ended with the masterful La soledad (Solitary Fragments). The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won Goyas for best film, best director (Jaime Rosales) and new actor (José Luis Torrijo).

— Pilar Ulibarri de Rivera

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