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Opening Night at this year’s Spanish Film Festival, with the warmly humorous drama, Seven Billiards Tables, will not prepare audiences for the horrors to come in the fest’s Cine Fantastico section, which includes [REC], the film that scared the pants off Spain’s cinema audiences last year.

But that’s just how it should be at a film fest, and founding director Natalia Ortiz has plenty more in store. “The filmmakers in this year’s program have produced vibrant, polemical, shocking, experimental, artful, and beautiful films. Despite a general fear that culture, therefore stories, are becoming homogenized, the films of the 2008 Spanish Film Festival line-up prove otherwise. Some tell intimate, human stories focused on local issues, while others reveal transnational cultural landscapes. The make-up of the productions themselves attest to this: co-productions between Argentina, Morocco, Ecuador & Spain show global collaboration, while a Chilean director working in Barcelona, and Spanish producers working in Latin America and Europe, demonstrate how the borders and boundaries are no longer cultural markers.

"a vibrant and active film industry"

“Although Spain has an industry with very well-established international filmmakers, we are also proud of having a vibrant and active film industry which supports new young talent. For 11 years the Spanish Film Festival has proudly showcased these new directors, providing opportunities for young filmmakers to break through in International Festivals and be discovered among the well established and up and coming,” Ortiz says.

In [REC], a TV reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her crew are sent out to spend a night with firemen for the programme When You're Asleep. When a 999 call arrives from a Barcelonan block of flats, they accompany the firefighters inside. Big mistake...
Trapped in a building in quarantine the only thing that matters is hiding, surviving, overcoming the fear ... And to keep on recording.

The opening night film heads this year’s festival focus, SPOTLIGHT ON MARIBEL VERDÚ. Six films starring Verdú show her amazing range and versatility from the crowd-pleasing comedy Oviedo Express and dizzying psychological thriller The Mud Boy (El niño de barro) to the taut social thriller La Zona all made in 2007. The Spotlight also features two of her early films that brought her to international prominence, 1992’s Academy Award winning Belle Epoque in which she stars alongside a young Penelope Cruz and 2001’s international smash-hit Y Tu Mama También.

The 2008 Festival CLOSING NIGHT features the Australian Premiere of The Orphanage (El Orfanato), an elegant and shivery ghost story and the biggest-earning film at the Spanish box office last year. The film is the directorial debut of JA Bayona, and the first film to be presented by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).

The core program thread as always is CONTEMPORARY SPAIN, the modern face of Spain as depicted through cinema. In 2008 the festival features the International Premiere of Juan Luis Iborra’s Desperate Women (Enloquecidas) direct from its world premiere at Malaga, and the multi-award winning Under The Stars (Bajo las estrellas) for which actor Alberto San Juan picked up the Best Actor Goya Award. San Juan also stars in office politics comedy Casual Day alongside Juan Diego and Luis Tosar.

"tribute to Argentina"

The tribute to Argentina features Who Says It’s Easy (Quién dice que es fácil?), the return by director Juan Taratulo after the sell out success of his previous Comedy It’s Not You, It’s Me (No Sos Vos Soy Yo). Some screenings feature live entertainment and drinks.

Three documentaries will screen in Sydney and Melbourne – Goya Award nominated Lucio about the “Basque Zorro” Lucio Urtubia, Tears of Wayronco (Lagrimas de wayronco) which gives voice to the victims of Peru’s internal armed conflict which raged for over two decades and the International Premiere of Burning the Strait (Quemando el estrecho) which looks beneath the tourist veneer of cities like Granada where an underclass of young immigrants, mostly Moroccan, try to survive.

Life Is Too Short is a program of award-winning short films which includes the Goya Best Short Film winner Salvador, and the first film by The Orphanage director JA Bayona, My Holiday (Mis vacaciones). ANIMATE!, which translates loosely as “Cheer Up”, is a program of animated shorts which includes the Best Animated Short Film Goya Award winner Tadeo Jones And The Basement Of Doom (Tadeo Jones y el sótano maldito).

Published April 17, 2008

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The Orphanage

Sydney: 7-18 May at Palace Academy Twin & Palace Norton Street Cinemas

Canberra: 7-11 May at Dendy Canberra Centre

Melbourne: 14-25 May at Palace Como & Palace Westgarth

Brisbane: 21-25 May at Palace Centro

Perth: 22-28 May at Cinema Paradiso

Seven Billiards

Night-vision camera pointed at the audience watching [REC] at Stiges.YOU TUBE

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