The Legacy of Spanish Film


It is nearly impossible to group together the vast collection of Spanish films in a single category. This sprawling region encompasses territory beyond a single continent or even hemisphere. The film fest’s Cinemedia program features Latin films, from the Americas and from Spain, including selections produced by indigenous filmmakers.

Cinemedia’s director Cristina Venegas knows the genre; she is an assistant professor of film at UCSB. When she selects films to screen at the festival, she’s looking for new trends while simultaneously scoping out risk-taking filmmakers. The filmmakers represented in the series include veterans such as Brazilian Nelson Pereira dos Santos, whose Brasilia 18% is his newest title in more than 50 years of what Venegas describes as an amazing history of filmmakinHg. Humberto Solas, another pioneer from the same generation as dos Santos, brings a difficult-to-get Cuban film Barrio Cuba to S.B., revealing a different side of the sometimes enigmatic island country.

Venegas raves about the debut by Spanish filmmaker Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, DarkBlueAlmostBlack, listed on SBIFF Director Roger Durling’s blog as a must-see. DarkBlueAlmostBlack explores love triangles, family, morality, and in essence, the dark blue, almost black, side of life.

Tristan Bauer’s beautifully done Blessed by Fire is set in the seldom selected setting of the Falkland Islands war. The film sets up Bauer for more well-deserved international recognition. Venegas describes Juan Carlos Rulfo’s In the Pit as absolutely brilliant. She’s not the only one; the story of Mexican City construction workers toiling on the Periferico freeway won the Grand Jury Prize in last year’s Sundance festival.

Argentine film Chronicles of an Escape by Israel Adrián Caetano is nominated for the 2007 Independent’s Spirit Awards’ best foreign film. A difficult subject, even to show outside Argentina, the film is based on the autobiography of a soccer team goalkeeper who is captured by the government, tortured in detention, and later escapes. The Journals of Knud Rasmussen is an indigenous film not to be missed. The story of the Danish-Greenlandic explorer is told through the voice of the indigenous people of the North: a great shaman of the Iglooik and his daughter. Madeinusa was made in Perú, a country from which few films originate.

In this sprawling selection, there are a number of other films of note, so check the schedule. Everything Venegas chose tells a poignant story by filmmakers who are becoming more visible and benefiting from the increased support — financially and creatively — given to artists in the Spanish-speaking world.

“It’s incredible that we can have 20-odd films from this region … but we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg,” explained Venegas. “There are so many exciting films.”

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