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Seasoned Greetings: Spanish Cinema Now

Paz VegaPaz Vega 

Friday, December 7-----------New York film audiences will be able to add a bit of Spanish spice to their seasoned greetings this holiday season, as the Film Society of Lincoln Center unveils its annual survey of the best of the new Spanish cinema. With such Spanish names as Pedro Almodovar, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz (among others) becoming international superstars, the red hot Spanish cinema is certainly one of the most vital and varied film cultures around.

For its 16th edition at the Walter Reade Theater, SPANISH CINEMA NOW is presenting 15 new feature films, as well as a program of new Spanish shorts and a long overdue retrospective of the films of Pilar Miró. The series begins today and runs through December 27th and is presented in collaboration with the Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA) of the Spanish Ministry of Culture, Instituto Cervantes New York and The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX). Special guests attending screenings during the series include directors Rafa Cortés, Rodrigo Cortés, Judith Colell, Ray Lorgia and Félix Viscarret; actor Alex Brandenwühl, Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales subdirector Pilar Torre; and writer Diego Galán.

"After several years of Spanish films being know for their bold, even bawdy explosiveness", said Richard Peña, program director at the Film Society, "this year's crop tends to focus much more personal relationships". This intimacy is reflected in tonight's series opener, UNDER THE STARS (Bajo Las Estrellas), the feature debut of director Félix Viscarret. In this offbeat tale, a trumper player strikes up an unusual friendship with his future sister-in-law's daughter as he makes plans to stop his brother's wedding. The film won several top awards at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival, including prizes for Best Film, Best Actor (Alberto San Juan), Best Director and Best First Screenplay.

With all the attention over the past few years given to male directors (although men who know how to write and direct for strong women characters), this year's showcase has a particularly strong representation of women auteurs. Six female directors are part of the slate of feature-length and short films, including Icíar Bollaín, Judith Colell and Gracia Querejeta. One of Spain's most acclaimed actresses Paz Vega (the star of international arthouse hit SEX AND LUCIA) has a strong role as the 16th century saint Theresa de Avila in director Ray Lorgia’s moving THERESA, THE BODY OF CHRIST.  

The program's y chromosome factor is also enhanced by a sidebar retrospective program of director and film advocate Pilar Miró, ten years after her untimely death. The series will screen seven of her films, including her Goya Award Best Director winning (and final film)  THE DOG IN THE MANGER (El Perro del Hortelano).  Another highlight is the rare screening of the eight-part series THE WAR ON FILM, a fascinating compilation of fims shot and edited during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, presented by noted Julián Casanova. The series, created by TVE and the Filmoteca Española, will be screened in its entirety outside of Spain for the first time. With the weather outside decidely frosty, a trip into the landscape of the Spanish psyche is just what the doctor buffs, pounce. For more information on the series and to buy tickets (including a series ticket for those who can't quite get enough film tapas), log on to the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center:

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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