My very own little socially distanced Spanish Film Festival #2

Well, it’s the 11th and so that’s the end of the Instituto Cervantes Festival Pelikula 2020. Not quite the same experience as being at the cinema but certainly very socially distanced. So distanced in fact, that I was all on my tod.

  1. El Cuadro. This is a documentary about the Velázquez painting ‘Las Meninas’. It is, in effect, a talking-heads documentary, with the reflections of various art-historians and curators (both Spanish and American) discussing this famous painting. It is divided into different chapters, interspersed with puppet images. It is a very imaginative and engaging way of presenting a documentary about a picture which, let’s face it, doesn’t have a lot of action as such. Certainly, you’ll see much more in ‘Las Meninas’ after viewing this documentary. Sorry- no English subtitles in the trailer.

2. Mudar la piel. Another documentary, produced by the daughter of the real life Juan Gutiérrez who acted as a secret mediator between ETA and the Spanish Government. Juan was assisted by Roberto, who ended up being exposed as a Secret Service spy after he betrayed his friend Juan and his role in the negotiations. Now his daughter Ana wants to make a documentary about the reunion of the two men, which her father agreed to – surely only out of love for his daughter- but which Roberto had qualms about. No wonder. I found myself becoming really annoyed at the naivete and intrusiveness of the daughter. I read Berta Isla recently, which was also about the ‘back story’ of a spy, and it seems to me that no-one in the secret service, even one who had ‘gone rogue’ as Roberto did, would ever agree to this documentary.

3. Asamblea. A satire of a very earnest group of people who meet together to ratify a decision (never explained) that is about to go to the Board (likewise never explained). The facilitator is very keen to get it approved, but the group resists, unwilling to rubber stamp a decision that will be made without their consent anyway. It’s like every deadly, politically correct, jargon-laden meeting that you have ever endured.

4. Arima. I’m not sure that I really know what happened here, but there is a group of women living in a small Spanish village whose lives are disrupted by two (?) strangers. A single mother lives with her daughter, who keeps running away and saying that she sees a ghost. The single mother becomes involved with a man, David, who is new to the village, who may or may not be a member of what seems to be a strange sex club. He seems to spend a lot of time running around in the dark with a gun and two savage dogs- or is that the other man? Or are they the same man? Meanwhile, the daughter is often minded by another woman, whose brother disappeared in the forest years ago, and who seems to be haunted by him. I have no idea what it all means, but it was very atmospheric and rather scary.

I really enjoyed my little Spanish Film Festival, even though all of the subtitles were in English which didn’t benefit my Spanish much. Can’t say I understood all the films, but I enjoyed the experience.

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