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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