Tired of watching pirated VCD movies with cheesy, predictable
Hollywood plots? Take heart, the Spanish Film Festival
is coming to town. Following last year's successful
debut, this year's Spanish Film Festival, hosted by
the Spanish Embassy and China Film Archive, will be
held at the China Film Archive on Friday, March 17 and
Saturday, March 18.
This year's festival
features four new films by four talented Spanish directors
- Alejandro Amenbar, Montxo Armendriz, Antonio JosŽ
Betancor, and JosŽ Luis Garci. Friday's screening features
Armendriz's Secretos del Coraz-n (Secrets of the Heart),
followed by Amenbar's Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes).
Saturday's screening features Garci's El Abuelo (The
Grandfather) followed by Betancor's Mararia.
Amenbar is a relative newcomer to the film world, but
is already making waves across the world with his unique
cinematic style. With only three films to his credit,
including a short called Luna , Amenbar is winning
the attention of big-name producers, including Tom Cruise.
Amenabr's first feature
film Tesis , a classic thriller, has already been
purchased for a remake by the producers of box-office
hits In The Name of the Father and The Boxer, both directed
by Ireland's Jim Sheridan and Arthur Lappin. Amenbar
has said publicly that while he is not planning to participate
in any remakes of his films for Hollywood, he is proud
of the tremendous interest in his work.
His most recent film,
Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) , is a tragic love
story that focuses on Cesar, a wealthy, self-centered
man who falls in love with his friend's girlfriend Sofia.
Cesar schemes to steal Sofia from his friend Pelayo.
Just when Sofia begins to respond to Cesar's advances,
Nuria, a woman infatuated with Cesar, takes him on a
wild car ride. The end of the escapade marks the beginning
of Cesar's first brush with rejection and isolation.
The film was purchased
for remake by Cruise and producer Paula Wagner after
it was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival in
Armendriz, a former science professor, switched careers
after he bought his first 8mm film camera in the 1980s.
His earliest works included a series of short documentaries
that addressed pressing social, cultural and political
issues. Armendriz then turned to making feature-length
films with social themes.
"There are two themes
that interest me," Armendriz told El Mundo, a Spanish
newspaper. "One is the human condition in the actual
moment, and the other is what we find in the human condition
that is basic and universal."
His most recent feature,
Secretos del Coraz-n (Secrets of the Heart) ,
set in a small Spanish town in the 1960s, is the story
of Javi, a nine-year-old boy who goes into the mountains
with his brother to try and solve their father's murder.
By the end, Javi's journey leads him to the discovery
that the world is full of deceit, passion, love and
death, leaving his innocence irrevocably altered.
Antonio JosŽ Betancor
Betancor's filmography spans over two decades. His films
Sentados al Borde de la Ma-ana (Sitting at the Edge
of Morning) , Valentina , and Mararia 
are all award-winning.
In his most recent work,
Mararia, Betancor weaves a tale of love, jealousy, passion
and death in the small town of Lazarote, Spain. In a
style evocative of magical realism, the film tells the
story of Mararia, a woman whose failed marriage, shattered
dreams and a tragic accident drives her to the brink
of insanity. Shortly after it was released, Mararia
took home the Maspalomas Film Festival's Public Choice
Award, as well as the Goya Award in cinematography.
JosŽ Luis Garci
Garci is by far the most experienced and prolific director
of the four. His career spans over more than a quarter
of a century and includes more than 15 films. His latest
work, El Abuelo (The Grandfather) , is set at
the turn of the 20th century in a northern Spanish town.
The film tells the story
of a man whose sense of family honor is threatened after
learning a dark family secret. Nearly blind and bankrupt,
Don Rodrigo, a count and a lord, returns to his hometown
from America. He learns from his dying son that one
of his two granddaughters, the family's only heirs,
is illegitimate, and therefore does not possess the
noble Albrit blood. As his own life draws to an end,
Don Rodrigo is driven by the need to learn the truth.
The Spanish Film Festival begins
this Friday, March 17, with 'Secretos del Coraz-n' (Secrets
of the Heart), followed by 'Abre Los Ojos' (Open Your
Eyes). It continues Saturday, March 18 with 'El Abuelo'
(The Grandfather), followed by 'Mararia'. All films
are in Spanish with English and Chinese subtitles, except
'Abre Los Ojos,' which does not have English. Shows
begin at 6:30 pm at the China Film Archive. Tickets
are RMB50 per night. See the Zhao Le Directory for venue