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The competition’s fierce in Official Competition

by Bernard O'Shea

Official Competition (Competencia oficial), the satirical comedy chosen to open Australia’s 2022 Spanish Film Festival, has a lot going for it. For starters:

  1. Superstars Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz appear together in substantial lead roles in a film for the first time. (Cruz’s part in Pedro Almodóvar’s 2019 film Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory) was smaller than Banderas’s.)
  2. It was written and directed by Argentine duo Gastón Duprat & Mariano Cohn, who came to world attention particularly for their 2016 comedy The Distinguished Citizen (El ciudadano ilustre), which won international awards, including the Goya for the Best Ibero-American Film.
  3. It also stars Argentine actor Oscar Martínez, who won the best actor award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival for playing the part of the aforementioned Distinguished Citizen.
  4. And, going by the trailer and the promotional photos, it looks fun and zany.

Belly laughs on opening night

The 2022 Spanish Film Festival program describes Official Competition as a “bitingly funny behind-the-scenes satire of filmmaking”, and yes, there were some laugh out loud moments at the opening night screening in Sydney.

It’s a film anyone involved in filmmaking or the theatre should see, for much of involves the rehearsals and ordeals that an eccentric film director (Cruz) puts her two lead actors (Banderas and Martínez) through. The trio have been signed up to make a no expenses spared film based on a Nobel prize-winning book. It’s the dream project of a wealthy businessman with absolutely no artistic flair or imagination, but who craves prestige.

But dream projects can turn out to be nightmares. As the program puts it, “Awash in egomania and deliciously absurd hijinks, Official Competition is a playful yet sharp comedy skewering wealth, art, and pride.”

The moment when actors Félix (Antonio Banderas) and Iván (Oscar Martínez) realise that the director’s a weirdo.

Egomaniacs and bitter rivals

Male egos are rampant here. In the film within the film, the two male leads, Hollywood star Félix Rivero (Banderas) and earnest theatre actor/lecturer Iván Torres (Martínez) have to play brothers caught up in the most bitter of sibling rivalries.  And in their rehearsals, the duo constantly lock horns in a game of one-upmanship, trying to prove who is the better actor. The rehearsal room turns into a wrestling ring,  a den of devious deception.

The director, Lola Cuevas (Cruz) doesn’t hold back either. The most bizarre, agonisingly cruel and fascinating scene involves bondage and an industrial shredder, but I won’t reveal what she puts through it.

Official Competition is a very original, absorbing film. Every budding actor should study it. The final twists in it and the film within a film that the characters are making are riveting. But I have one gripe: at 114 minutes it is too long and it drags in parts. If Duprat and Cohn had been as ruthless as Lola Cuevas and put some scenes through the shredder, it would have packed more punch. But hats off to Cruz, Banderas and Martínez. They truly are superb actors.

A horse and rider take part in a equestrian show

Concurso hípico – a horse show.

Use of competencia, competición and concurso in Spanish

While competence and competition have distinct meanings in English, in Spanish they don’t. Competencia can mean competence, aptitude, rivalry and competition, and is much more common than competición.

My Vox New College Spanish-English Dictionary has a much bigger entry for competencia than competición. It gives these sample sentences and idioms:

  • Hay una gran competencia entre los dos tenistasthere’s a great rivalry between the two tennis players
  • Emilio trabaja ahora para la competenciaEmilio is now working for our competitors
  • en competencia conin competition with
  • hacer la competencia ato compete with, to compete against

In contrast, the Vox dictionary entry for competición is simply nf competition, contest. espiritu de competición competitive spirit

Often in Spanish concurso would be used as the word for a contest, tournament, competitive or public examination, quiz etc rather than competición. Concurso hípico, for example, is a horse show.

Concurso can also mean 1) a crowd, gathering; 2) help, aid, collaboration; 3) a tender. A useful expression is estar fuera de concursoto be out of the running. M5R

Official Competition photo courtesy of the Spanish Film Festival.  Horse photo by TheOtherKev/Pixabay.

See also

Let the 2022 Spanish Film Festival begin

Palace Cinemas CEO’s top picks for the film festival

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