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Popular Spanish actor Javier Cámara, a special guest of the Festival, will be the subject of a sidebar at this year’s event, which also reminds us of the Spanish Civil war that ended 70 years ago – but left eternal scars.

The 2009 Spanish Film Festival opens with the Spanish box office hit, Chef’s Special, a laugh-out-loud comedy starring Javier Cámara, who will be in Australia to present sessions in Sydney and Melbourne. Chef’s Special leads the Javier Cámara In Focus section which features screenings of some of Cámara’s finest work including Spain’s official entry for the Academy Awards, Blind Sunflowers (nominated for 15 Goya Awards), the popular opening night film of the 2005 Festival, Torremolinos 73, and one of his early and best roles in Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk To Her.

“This year’s program gives an exciting insight into contemporary Spain and Spanish-speaking countries through the most powerful form of communication - cinema. Most of these films will never be screened again in Australia, and the Spanish Film Festival offers audiences around the country their only chance to see these amazing films on the big screen,” said Spanish Film Festival Director and Founder, Natalia Ortiz.

"Spain’s acclaimed and internationally-renowned filmmakers"

“Spain’s acclaimed and internationally-renowned filmmakers showcase their work alongside the up-and-coming new directors – the internationally acclaimed filmmakers of the future. We discover new talent, an insight into today’s Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Cuba, and revisit, or discover, the father of Spanish Cinema in the Retrospective of the work of Luis Buñuel,” Ortiz said.

And in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, a program of features and documentaries give greater insight into this defining period in Spain’s history. A War In Hollywood is an in-depth look at the impact that the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship had on the North American film industry. Hollywood used the Civil War as a subject in more than 50 films. The defeat of democracy in Spain left an “open wound” in the heart of liberal actors, directors and screenwriters in the US, who used affection towards democratic Spain as a symbolic feature to define the romantic spirit of their characters. This sympathy, however, was shaped according to the American political tendencies of each period. This evolution is narrated through the personal story of Alvah Bessie, a Hollywood screenwriter who fought as a member of the International Brigade. Oriol Porta’s meticulous documentary includes excerpts from Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Way We Were among others, and commentary by actress Susan Sarandon, screenwriters Arthur Laurents and Walter Bernstein and cinema historians Román Gubern and Patrick McGilligan.

Viva La Musica is a celebration of music and film and features Old Man Bebo, a documentary on legendary pianist Bebo Valdes who is one of the greatest living Cuban musicians, now nearing 90. This joyful documentary celebrates the man who was a key figure in the development of mambo and whose life reflects the experiences of many Cubans since 1959.

Carlos Saura’s Fados is a music journey which explores the intricate relationship between the music and the city of Lisbon, as the evolution of Fado, the Portuguese national song of passion, sorrow and remembrance.

"a feel-great celebration of music and fervour"

La Mala is a comedy set in 1960s Puerto Rico which is a feel-great celebration of music and fervour inspired by the story of Guadalupe Yoli Raymond – La Lupe - the patron saint of Cuba's Latin soul movement, featuring Grammy nominee Lena Burke in her first screen role.

Calixto Bieito’s famously controversial 2002 staged production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni sets the action in the late 20th century (in a rough, middle-class, neighbourhood replete with lager-louts, sex and drugs) and brings to life an ancient story brilliantly re-told. Filmed on Bieito’s home stage of Barcelona, the production boasts some fine singing, especially from Véronique Gens as Elvira (once a problematic role, now every lyric soprano’s favourite).

Septembers is the story of Madrid’s Soto del Real penitentiary which, every September, holds the “Festival of the Song,” a competition among the best singers from selected prisons. This beautifully executed documentary follows the stories of eight contestants, four men and four women, from one September’s contest to the next, and journeys both within and outside the prison, travelling from Buenos Aires to Lithuania, and Bolivia to Barcelona in order to track down the people for whom the prisoners sing.

Cine Contemporaneo is a program which showcases the cutting edge of contemporary Spanish cinema, featuring some of the most exciting directors currently working in Spain - both emerging new talent and celebrated established filmmakers.

The feature directorial debut from award-winning writer David Planell (Seven Billiard Tables SPFF 2008), Shame is an audacious new drama about a couple wanting to send back an adopted child.

José Antonio Quirós’ engaging new comic drama, Ashes From The Sky, examines the compromises and consequences made over environmental concerns as they affect people’s everyday lives. Make It Look Like An Accident is a wildly entertaining film from Gerardo Herrero about conspiracies, a group of crazy friends, and an obsessive mother played effortlessly by the always-superb Carmen Maura.

"stirring Spanish romance of mad love and doomed passion"

A tenderhearted romantic fable and Moroccan co-production, A Fiancé For Yasmina, charts the tangled imbroglio that arises when emotional dilemmas, star-crossed relationships and the unpredictable effects of love bring mayhem upon a group of friends who gather at an immigrants' centre.

The award-winning debut feature from writer-director José Manuel González, The Sandman is a stirring Spanish romance of mad love and doomed passion, inspired by the now extinct Spanish "Law for the Vagabonds and Delinquents" which existed under Franco.

Insignificant Things is the debut feature from writer-director Andrea Martinez Crowther, produced by Bertha Navarro and Guillermo del Toro - an emotive story about a young girl who learns about people through what they leave behind.

From the writer-directors of Tapas (SPFF 2006), Cowards is a sensitive and powerful treatment of bullying both in the school playground and in the wider social landscape in which children and their families operate.

Spanish director Augustín Díaz Yanes follows up the most expensive film ever made in Spain (Nobody Will Speak of Us When We’re Dead), by casting some of the biggest stars of the Spanish-speaking world in Just Walking, a hugely entertaining new femme thriller set in Mexico (starring Diego Luna, Victoria Abril, Ariadna Gil, Pilar López De Ayala, Elena Anaya) about power, lust & money that was nominated for 11 Goya awards.

Horn Of Plenty is the new screwball comedy from Juan Carlos Tabío (Strawberry and Chocolate) which explores with corrosive wit the allure of wealth, as the residents of a small Cuban town chase the possibility of an inherited overseas fortune.

Mothers (Madres) is the story of the group of Argentinean women who have banded together since the 1970s when their children were kidnapped by the military government. In this moving documentary, the mothers speak of their determination to uncover what happened to their children through touching interviews. Archival footage lets us witness the drift of a country from the idyllic Evita years to state terrorism based on the forced disappearance of people.

"Spanish-language cinema from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Argentina"

The beauty, mastery and energy of the Spanish-speaking world is showcased through Spanish-language cinema from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Argentina in Cine En Español. Y Tu Mamá También co-stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna are reunited on the big screen in Rudo Y Cursi from Mexico, a delightful romp of a comedy drama from writer-director Carlos Cuarón (brother of Alfonso).

Life Is Too Short is the popular program of short films from Spain: The Hairy Tooth Fairy, the world’s most famous sugar-tooth rodent, is back with the animated sequel set to delight All Ages. Perez, the Hairy Tooth Fairy has been kidnapped by the devious Penkoff – and it falls to 8-year-old Lucas and his family to save the day!

Published April 23, 2009

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Chef's Special

Sydney: 6-18 May at Palace Academy Twin, Palace Norton Street & Chauvel

Canberra: 7-14 May at Dendy Canberra City

Canberra: 21 May – 7 June at ARC (National Film & Sound Archive)

Melbourne: 13-25 May at Palace Cinema Como & Kino Cinemas

Adelaide: 14-17 May at Palace Eastend Cinemas

Brisbane: 21-31 May at Palace Centro

Perth: 20-27 May at Cinema Paradiso

War in Hollywood

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