THIS year’s Spanish Film Festival will be nothing if not entertaining, its director Genevieve Kelly promises.
Yes, she agrees, maybe Spanish film has too often been overshadowed by grim stories of the Franco era, but as she says, “that’s a perception we would like to break”.
Curiously, the very entertaining film she’s chosen for opening night, “Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed”, is set in the late 1960s part of the Franco era, a time when John Lennon was writing “Strawberry Fields Forever” in Spain. Believe it or not, Lennon looms large in the story.
Kelly is unapologetic about her pursuit of popularity this year. While the French Film Festival’s been around for 25 years and is the most popular of the big ones, with its Italian counterpart not far behind, the Spanish event (Palace Electric Cinemas, May 1-14), now 17 years old, has the potential to catch up.
“Every year it has grown exponentially in attendance,” she says, “Spanish cinema has just as much appeal as the others”. All three festivals are managed by Palace Cinemas, for whom Kelly works.
“The entertainment factor is overriding,” she says, and the news that “X Men” supervillain, Álex González, will be in town for a Canberra-exclusive Q&A on May 4, confirms her focus. González stars in two of the films, “Scorpion in Love”, an urban drama about neo-Nazis, and “Combustion”, an action film about illegal car racing.
Kids are often short-changed in our film festivals, I suggest, but she’s thought of that too, choosing one movie based on two enormously popular cartoon characters.
In “Zip and Zap and the Marble Gang” the two friends, Zip and Zap, are sent to a summer school for misbehaving children where the motto is “no play allowed”.
“I was exposed to foreign-language films from a very young age,” Kelly says, “It allows young people to relate to other cultures.”
The festival has romantic comedies, drama and documentaries, but it’s the psychological thrillers such as “To Kill a Man” from Spanish-speaking Chile, that really haunt her.
And it’s the Romanian-French-Spanish, co-production, “Cannibal”, starring Antonio de la Torre, that’s blown her mind. Set in the historical city of Granada, shy tailor Carlos (de la Torre) is a serial killer by night.
“It may sound gory,” Kelly says, “but it’s just the opposite, it’s about the discovery of love – I could watch that film again and again.”