Category Archives: Spanish Films

Con subtítulos en español: Victor XX

A young transgender girl, Mari is experimenting with her identity as Victor. She is in a gay relationship with another young girl, who doesn’t know about her illicit excursions as Victor. It’s really well acted, with Alba Martinez as Mari/Victor. For a film only 19 minutes long, it’s sad and beautiful.

I watched it through Instituto Cervantes, who have a number of short LGBTI films available during July. I choose to watch them with Spanish subtitles, but English subtitles are available too. Each film is only available for 48 hours.

Con subtítulos en español: Después también (2019)

I’ve joined up for the short films presented by Instituto Cervantes during July for their LGBTQI short film festival.

‘Después también’ is short indeed at only 25 minutes. A young boy, Edu, learns that he has been exposed to HIV by a gay ex-lover and he now has to tell his new girlfriend. “I have something to tell you” he says. And then it ends. What did she say? Did they stay together? I guess I’ll never know. Unfortunately the trailer doesn’t have subtitles.

Con subtítulos en español: Una corriente salvaje (A Wild Stream)

Another Instituto Cervantes documentary.

Well, that’s seventy minutes of my life that I’m not going to get back again. I have no idea what this film was about, and I doubt if I would have understood it any better had I used the English subtitles instead of the Spanish ones. Two men, one living in a campervan, the other in a shack, are living beside a lake in the mountains. The scenery is magnificent, but they seem to be the only two men alive on earth. Each living in their own place, they get up each morning, they fish – sometimes alone, sometimes together – they fix nets, they burn their rubbish, they chop wood. At night they talk. Who are they? Where did they come from? Are they lovers? Where did one of them go in the end? I kept expecting a story, but there isn’t one. You may as well just watch the trailer.

Obviously someone got more from it than I did. Here’s a review in English

Con subtítulos en español: Baracoa

This is the film offering for this weekend from Instituto Cervantes. They are free, but you do need to book to get the link. Like the film last week, this is a semi-documentary (or as the co-producers describe it ‘narrative non-fiction documentary’, this time about two boys, one aged 13 and the other 9, who have grown up together in a country town. Now the older boy is shifting to La Habana. Much of the film involves the two boys romping, wrestling and teasing each other. My knowledge of Spanish slang is insufficient to understand much of what they were saying, but it all seemed to be good-natured offensiveness. It is summer holidays, and the kids just roam around disused buildings and empty swimming pools, with nary an adult in sight. Once the older boy Antuán shifts to Havana, the younger boy Leonal visits him but things have changed.

I gather that this was filmed documentary-style, and largely unscripted. I’d forgotten the slow easiness of Cuba, even in Havana. It’s all very subtle and atmospheric, but not much happens.

Spanish Film Festival 2021: The Island of Lies

I know that the Spanish Film Festival has finished for this year, but this is mainly to remind me of the films that I watched as part of it.

This film is set on a rugged island off the coast of Galacia in 1921. The men have left to go to the mainland, leaving only the women, the local school teacher and lighthouse keeper and the cruel overseer. A storm hits the island, and a passing ship with 260 emigrants bound for Buenos Aires sinks. In the turmoil of the storm, we see three women murder the overseer but it’s not really clear what is going on. The three women then take a lifeboat and are responsible for saving the lives of the few survivors. They are feted on the mainland, but then the news story changes and their act of mercy comes under suspicion.

To be honest, I’m not really quite sure what was true, although I think that might have been the purpose of the film-makers, who have based this film loosely on a true story. I was struck by the primitive conditions on the island, and the primal wildness of the women. I hadn’t really thought of links across islands transcending national boundaries, but it reminded me of islands off the Scottish and Irish coasts.

My rating: 8/10

Con subtítulos en español: Para la guerra

Instituto Cervantes is releasing a series of short films during May, although I missed the first one. They are only available for 48 hours, and it’s too late for you to order a (free) ticket- but there are more films scheduled for the rest of the month. I’m not quite sure how to translate “Para la guerra” because ‘para’ can mean so many things: To War? For War? In order for War?

Anyway, it’s about an old man, who fought in wars in both Angola and Nicaragua during the 1970s and 1980s, now living in Cuba just after the death of Fidel Castro. He is looking for the soldiers who fought alongside him, all of whom are just as old as him now. It’s pretty slow moving, with long minutes of night vision of walking through the grass and along roads. I was more interested in the switch between historical film, taken in a stadium where soldiers were demonstrating their hand-to-hand combat and ability to smash bricks with their heads, and the present-day reenactment where this old man smears his face with grease and grass, and dances his choreography of combat. He seems to have a lonely life, without family, and I was pleased that he finally reconnected with an old comrade.

Spanish Film Festival 2021: While at War

Based on true events, this is the story of the Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno, rector of the University of Salamanca during the first months of Franco’s Nationalist government. Although previously left-leaning, he was disillusioned by the disorder of the Republican government, and he gives increasingly luke-warm support to the Nationalists. But when his friends fall victim to the Nationalists, he changes his mind and takes a stance. Franco is depicted as a rather diffident leader who nonetheless is playing a long game while the war hero Millán-Astray is seen to be driving events and whipping up passions. It made me think about how support for a political party of any persuasion can take you to places and stances beyond your comfort zone, and the line between inconsistency and a considered change of position. I’d never heard of Miguel de Unamuno, or this event – but then again, I’m constantly being confronted with things that I know nothing about!

Although the Spanish Film Festival has now finished in Melbourne, there’s an extra showing of While at War on 16th May at the Kino.

My rating: 8/10

Con subtítulos en español: Después de…

This was quite different from the other films that I have seen screened through the Instituto Cervantes. It’s a two-part documentary about the political rift in Spanish society in the 1980s, in the years after the death of Franco and just before the 1981 military coup. The film makers go into the streets and to political rallies, interviewing people – just ordinary people. Actually, it reminded me a bit of America today: a society completely divided, interpreting events in starkly different ways. No wonder there was a coup just after they had finished filming, because the pro-Franco forces, including the Church, were still very prominent. There’s no real plot to it. Instead, it moves from one group to another in a chapter-like format. Interesting as a piece of social and political history.

With subtitles in English: Guarani

SBS’ Latin American film festival finishes tonight, and I just finished watching Guarani.

Lots of images of slow water flowing past with trains, boats, cars etc. moving from one side of the screen to the other. The plot, such as it is, is that a young girl has been left with her grandfather and aunts in Paraguay while she moves to Buenos Aires. The young girl accompanies her taciturn grandfather fishing along the Paraná River, while grieving the absence of her mother. The grandfather refuses to speak Spanish, proud of his indigenous Guarani heritage and determined to pass it on. When the mother writes to say that she is pregnant with a baby boy, the grandfather decides that he wants to go to Buenos Aires to bring his daughter home, so that his grandson will be born in Paraguay and can be inculcated into the river-based culture of his family. He and his granddaughter take off for distant Buenos Aires, walking much of it, working on a tobacco farm to earn the money to catch a train, and finally arrive at Buenos Aires. In the end…well, I have no idea what the end meant.

That’s an hour and a half that I have lost forever. Beautiful scenery though.

My rating: 6/10

With subtitles in English: Javier’s Passion

This film will be on SBS On Demand until the end of April. It’s based on the life of the Peruvian poet Javier Heraud who died, aged 21, in Bolivia when leading a group of Cuban-inspired revolutionaries who were returning to Peru to foment revolution there too. He was obviously a brilliant student, who dropped out of law to take up literature, travelled to Russia and Paris, then to Cuba on a scholarship to study Film. It’s beautifully filmed, with subtitles in English (and fairly easy-to-follow Spanish).