As Spanish Ambassador Mr Manuel Cacho Quesada tells the packed Palace Electric, the Spanish Film Festival is all about showing that “Spain is not only siesta and fiesta, just as Australia is not only sun and surf.”
I’m at the opening night event for the Canberra festival and I’ve downed one or two glasses of cava, which definitely makes me want to both siesta and fiesta.
The lights dim, and for a bubbly hour and a half, we’re swept along in the feel-good story of The Tribe. It’s got everything you want out of a mid-week movie night: comedy, dance numbers, a pinch of feminism and a punch right in the happy-cry feels. And a catchy R’n’B song, written especially for the film, that I started off loathing and ended up downloading.
The Tribe tells the story of soulless corporate boss Fidel, who gets fired and divorced after a YouTube video of him in an, ahem, compromising position with a colleague goes viral. As if that wasn’t enough bad luck, he gets hit by a bus and wakes up in hospital to find that he’s forgotten everything about himself.
The amnesia, and the help of his mum’s go-getting ladies’ dance troupe, turns out to be exactly what he needed to turn his life around. I dare you to watch it and not boogie in your seat to the sight of Fidel and his mum’s friends cutting moves.
Spain may not be all about siesta and fiesta, but the festival’s organisers sure know how to put on a party. The rest of the opening night is a treat, with live music and plenty of wine on offer in the cinema’s sparkling Prosecco Bar.
Most importantly, there are snacks galore: steaming hot quesadillas, croquettes, salsa, and the grand finale – churros! As we leave for the evening, filled to the brim with good food and fresh from a good film, my only regret is that I wore my fancy movie-critic skirt rather than elastic-waisted pants to fit in more deliciousness.
You can take in The Tribe and so much more, as the festival’s packed schedule unfolds over the next two weeks.
This year’s festival includes a special collection of films spotlighting women directors, and also includes two movies for the little ones, including Pixar’s awards-season knockout Coco. With a collection of documentaries and vintage classics, there’s something for everybody here.
For fans of The Shape of Water, the closing night of the festival might catch your interest – it offers the chance to catch director Guilermo del Toro’s spooky cult classic Pan’s Labyrinth on the big screen with a glass of wine to boot.
The festival is a fantastic chance to spend a night at the cinema with a friend (or a date!) and be sure you’ll get something a bit different from your standard Marvel action flick.
I think the Ambassador is right – these movies give us a chance to find out what Spain is really like, all for a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket there. And maybe you’ll even find your new favourite R’n’B song.
The 21st Spanish Film Festival is on at Palace Electric B in New Acton every night from Wednesday 18 April to Sunday 6 May. Check out the program and grab tickets at the official website here.