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Tasty start to 2023 Spanish Film Festival

by Bernard O'Shea

The next of Australia’s great foreign film festivals, the Spanish Film Festival, starts mid-month, and for a change Sydney will be the last of the seven host cities to see it. About half of the 32 films are a selection of new Spanish cinema; there’s a strong Cine Latino element including a Spotlight on Argentina; and there’s a six-film retrospective dedicated to the great Spanish director Carlos Saura, who died in February 2023, aged 91.

The 2023 Spanish Film Festival opens in Palace Cinemas in Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane on June 14, and in Melbourne, Perth and Byron Bay a day later. The fiesta begins in Sydney on June 20. The festival runs for three weeks in each city, plus whatever popular repeat screenings are added on at the end.

The opening night film, Two Many Chefs (La Vida Padre), is a hoot. I saw it last month on a Qatar Airways flight, though if I’d known then that it would feature at the Spanish Film Festival I would have skipped watching it on my economy class little screen and saved it for the big-screen splendour of my local Palace Cinema. I might even go and see it again, anyway, it was that entertaining.

Watch out for the frogs!

In Two Many Chefs, a long-lost father Juan (Karra Elejalde) comes back into his son Mikel’s (Enric Auquer)’s life after vanishing for 30 years. Both are accomplished chefs in Bilbao but the father – under enormous pressure to attain top Michelin stars rankings – had been traumatised long ago by a prank involving frogs, and still thinks it’s the 1990s (the frog scene is devastating but hilarious). His time warp is a cue for generational misunderstandings and humour poking fun at the modern world of gadgets, Siri and Alexa, and digital influencers. The humour is slap-dash at times, but underneath it all there’s paternal poignancy that makes it very endearing. The kitchen and food scenes are fantastic too.

Mexican mayhem and Oscar contenders

I’ve watched the trailers of all feature films in the 2023 Spanish Film Festival and the one I’m looking most forward to seeing is My Father’s Mexican Wedding/La novia de América (pictured above). It has all the Latin drama and exuberance you could wish for (the festival program calls it a “mad comedy”, and in some host cities you can see it at a special festival event, a Mexican Fiesta night). It involves two youngish adult siblings – a brother and sister – living in Spain are surprised to hear from their  father that he’s getting married again – in Mexico, to a woman he’s met online. But more surprises lie in store when they travel to the Americas. Time for a big fat Mexican wedding!

Other films to watch out for are:

  • Alcarràs, which was selected as Spain’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at this year’s 95th Academy Awards (surprisingly beating Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s As Bestas/The Beasts) but did not make the shortlist.
  • The Kings of the World (Los reyes del mundo), Colombia’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards, which also failed to make the Oscar shortlist.

The full program for the 2023 Spanish Film Festival can be found here.

Spanish Film Festival dates and venues

Canberra, 14 June – 5 JulyPalace Electric Cinema.
Adelaide, 14 June – 5 JulyPalace Nova Eastend Cinemas.
Brisbane, 14 June – 5 July:  Palace James Street and Palace Barracks.
Melbourne, 15 June-5 JulyThe Astor Theatre, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Westgarth, The Kino, Palace Balwyn and Pentridge Cinema.
Perth, 15 June – 5 JulyPalace Raine Square Cinemas, Luna Leederville and Luna on SX.
Byron Bay, 15 June – 5 JulyPalace Byron Bay.
Sydney, 20 June – 12 JulyPalace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Palace Central and Chauvel Cinema.

See also

Tapas, tequila, and live flamenco dancing: viva the SpanishFilmFest!

Strong Latino line-up at Spanish Film Festival

As Bestas (The Beasts) triumphs at 2023 Goya Awards

Photos courtesy of Palace Cinemas/Spanish Film Festival

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