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2024 Spanish Film Festival line-up revealed

by Bernard O'Shea

The 2024 Spanish Film Festival is set to brighten up the Australian winter, with 30 new films and nine retrospectives, making it the biggest yet in the festival’s 26 years.

The packed program is divided into categories including New Spanish Cinema, Spanish Comedies, Cine Latino, and a Focus on Female Filmmakers. Isabel Coixet and Salvador Dali are honoured in the retropectives segment.

The month-long festival starts in Canberra on June 11, Adelaide a day later, then Brisbane and Perth on June 13. Melbourne’s festival begins on June 14, and Sydney stirs into Spanish action on June 19.

Ballina joins the fiesta

The 2024 Spanish Film Festival features a new host city: Ballina on the NSW North Coast. Felicidades (congratulations) Ballina. It and nearby Byron Bay will have screenings from June 21 to July 10.

“Ballina has been added to the programme in response to community demand for a selection of festival sessions,” says Palace Cinemas chief executive officer Benjamin Zeccola. “So we’ll be watching closely to see how they perform and expect that we’ll be able to reach a broader section of the community by also screening there.”

Opening night honours

The opening night film, The Movie Teller (La Contadora De Películas) is set in Chile’s Atacama Desert in 1966. French-Argentine actress Bérénice Bejo (pictured at top) stars as Maria, whose weekly treat is going to the cinema with her father. But after a tragedy prevents him from attending, Maria has to narrate the cinematic stories to him and other townsfolk, and becomes quite the performer in so doing.

This Chilean, Spanish and French co-production has been compared to the 1988 Italian smash hit and Oscar Award winner Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso). “At its heart,” says Benjamin, “The Movie Teller is both a coming-of-age story – refreshingly acted and expertly told – and a love letter to the connective power of storytelling. Don’t miss it!”

Another film to look forward to is Jokes & Cigarettes (Saben aquell in Catalan) which was nominated in 11 categories at the Spanish film industry’s Goya Awards in February 2024, winning one – David Verdaguer (pictured below) for Best Actor.

Looking deadpan in Jokes & Cigarettes.

The scoops of the 2024 festival

We asked Benjamin, whose twin passions are film and Spain: “Which films are you particularly excited about this year? What do you consider your scoops of the 2024 Spanish Film Festival?” Here’s his response. Take heed!

Something is about to Happen (Que Nadie Duerma)

Malena Alterio won the Goya Award for best actress. Fusing tones of rapture, delicacy, empathy, love, tenderness, vengeance and delirium, it’s a daring movie that challenges expectations, resulting in a true tour de force. Unfairly fired from her IT Job and fed up with answering to a boss, Lucia starts a business and becomes infatuated with a mysterious neighbour. She also falls victim to a mean-spirited scam and seeks vengeance, climaxing (literally) in a terrific rampage. A comment on class and society, gender, and character. Beautiful music from Turandot is seamlessly used to accentuate key moments.

A woman in a brown coat and man in a red shirt embrace on a hillside.

Laia Costa and Hovik Keuchkerian star as new neighbours who become entangled in a web of passion.

 Un Amor

A headstrong young woman moves to a sleepy Spanish mountain village and finds herself being admired by some locals whereupon she receives a proposal. Laia Casta (above, with co-star Hovik Keuchkerian) brings feeling and humour to a portrait of the contradictions of someone caught in the vortex of unexpected passion.

 The Girls are Alright (Las Chicas Están Bien)

A gently moving love letter to female friendship and storytelling, in which a writer and four actresses gather in a country house to rehearse  the former’s new play. “Beguiling, tactile and intimate, it is a delightful film that revels in its femininity.” (Screen International)

 The Girls From the Station (Las Chicas de la Estación)

A powerful drama inspired by real events. The film tells the raw story of three teenage girls in a juvenile detention centre who long for meaningful relationships with their peers, community and connection but fall into a trap set by another girl. When the stakes mount, will they find their own  agency to outsmart those trying to exploit them? Similar thematically to Italy’s Baby series that was a global hit.

SFF24 dates and venues

Canberra, 11 June – 10 July:  Palace Electric Cinema
Adelaide, 12 June – 10 JulyPalace Nova Eastend Cinemas
Brisbane, 13 June – 10 July:  Palace James Street and Palace Barracks
Perth, 13 June – 10 JulyPalace Raine Square Cinemas, Luna Leederville and Luna on SX
Melbourne, 14 June – 10 JulyThe Astor Theatre, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Penny Lane, Palace Westgarth, The Kino, Palace Balwyn and Pentridge Cinema
Sydney, 19 June – 17 JulyPalace Norton Street, Palace Moore Park, Palace Central and Chauvel Cinema
Byron Bay, 21 June – 10 JulyPalace Byron Bay
Ballina, 21 June – 10 JulyBallina Fair Cinemas

For more information, visit www.spanishfilmfestival.com M5R

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