Spanish Film Festival

Film, Film festivals
The Tribe Spanish Film Festival
Photograph: Supplied The Tribe

Big stars, eroticism, comedy and the return of the god Pan feature in the annual celebration of Spanish film

Palace Cinemas once again present the Spanish Film Festival, which returns in April.

Big stars such as Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Maribel Verdú and Paco León feature in multiple films, and screenings include retrospectives, exciting new auteur efforts, crazy comedies, and all the passion, sentiment, dark Catholic guilt and political unrest that we’ve come to know and love about the cinema of this vibrant and in some ways divided nation.

Opening night comedy The Tribe is about a cleaning woman who loves street dancing (Carmen Machi) and the son she gave up for adoption (Paco León), reuniting on the dance floor.

The Open Door stars Machi as an ageing prostitute living with her senile mother who takes in a seven-year-old orphan girl, who transforms their lives.

Fans of Netflix show Narcos will recognise the story being told in Loving Pablo, which details the downfall of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem) from the point of view of his TV journalist mistress Virginia Vallejo (Penélope Cruz).

Several outrageous comedies are screening. Maribel Verdù stars in Abracadabra, as the wife of a sexist soccer fan (Antonio de la Torre) who is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. Operation Goldenshell has a con artist hiring a lookalike to pose as a movie star to swindle an investor.

It’s for Your Own Good involves three fathers conspiring to scare off their daughters’ deadbeat boyfriends, while Lord Give Me Patience is about a widower (Jordi Sánchez) who has to spend a weekend with his dysfunctional children.

Mist and the Maiden is a gripping Spanish noir about the cold case of a young man killed on one of the Canary Islands. The Chess Player concerns a chess champion (Marc Clotet) whose skills help him when he’s arrested by the Nazis in occupied Paris.

Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro recently triumphed at the Oscars with The Shape of Water. To celebrate, Spanish Film Festival is screening Del Toro’s 2005 masterpiece, Spanish Civil War fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, as the closing night special event.

One of the stars of Pan’s Labyrinth, Maribel Verdú, features in No Filter, a comedy about a downtrodden woman who starts speaking her mind. A special event screening will include music and drinks before the movie.

Another revival screening will be of Pixar’s recent Mexico-set hit Coco, about a boy trapped in the Land of the Dead. The movie is screening in its Spanish language version (no subtitles).

There is also a retrospective of the late Spanish filmmaker Bigas Luna, including his most famous film, Jamón Jamón (1992). Notable as the first pairing of future couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem (also starring together in Loving Pablo), it’s a fiercely erotic comedic melodrama in which sex is compared to food. Also screening is Luna’s breast-obsessed The Tit and the Moon (1994) and Golden Balls (1993), in which Bardem plays a boorish engineer who wants to build a giant skyscraper in homage to his own penis. Bigas Luna was nothing if not consistent in his themes.

A highlight of last year’s festival was Summer 1993, which went on to win a bunch of awards internationally. A moving story of six-year-old Frida who goes to live in the Catalan provinces with her aunt and uncle after the death of her parents, Carla Simón's autobiographical film gets an encore screening in 2018.

The legacy of the Spanish Civil War looms large in The Bastard’s Fig Tree, in which a fascist killer (Karra Elejalde) tries to atone by becoming a hermit and tending a fig tree at the grave of one of his victims.

A Catalan architecture student (director Elena Martin) decides to go to Berlin on exchange in Júlia Is, an acclaimed story of reinvention.

Tickets are on sale now.