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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Five Must-See Films at the 2019 Moro Spanish Film Festival

With an award-winning queer romance and a 'Real Housewives'-style drama set in 1980s Mexico, this year's fest is thrilling, funny and varied.
By Sarah Ward
April 24, 2019
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Five Must-See Films at the 2019 Moro Spanish Film Festival

With an award-winning queer romance and a 'Real Housewives'-style drama set in 1980s Mexico, this year's fest is thrilling, funny and varied.
By Sarah Ward
April 24, 2019
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A mainstay of Australia's film festival scene for 22 years, the Moro Spanish Film Festival doesn't just celebrate a single country. It also celebrates a language. With Spanish ranking as the globe's second most popular tongue, this showcase of cinema broadens its gaze across the world — not only highlighting movies from the festive European nation that gives the fest its name but, by joining forces with the Cine Latino Film Festival in 2019, screening flicks from Latin America as well.

Consider the end result the biggest bargain there is in the film fest world: two festivals for the price of one. Consider it a hefty lineup of new Spanish-language movies, too, with 32 titles touring the country until mid-May. Overseas award-winners? New voices making their debut? A focus on female filmmakers? They're all on this year's program. So are existential thrillers, queer standouts and classic romps — which each claim a place among our five must-sees.

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ANA BY DAY

Seeing double is one of cinema's favourite tropes — from creepy twins to stalking lookalikes to cases of mistaken identity, doppelgängers are all common film fodder. In Ana by Day, the eponymous Madrid woman (Ingrid García Jonsson) finds her life turned upside down when her double arrives, takes over and leaves her to her own devices. It's a tantalising notion, especially when Ana decides to lean into the situation and live the existence she's always wanted. As conveyed by first-time filmmaker Andrea Jaurrieta as well as exceptional star García Jonsson, at the core of the concept sits a simple truth: the struggle to realise who we really are.

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CARMEN & LOLA

Premiering at last year's Cannes Film Festival, picking up two gongs at this year's Goya Awards, and earning plenty of praise on the queer festival circuit, Carmen and Lola brings an observant, empathetic eye to a tale of romance versus prejudice. The movie's two paramours are also its two victims — and while the setup might feel somewhat familiar, this film has its own spark. Here, a pair of Roman women (Zaira Romero and Rosy Rodríguez) in a Catholic gypsy community defy tradition by falling for each other. Drawing upon her documentary background, writer/director Arantxa Echevarría uses her non-professional cast perfection, conveying the heart-swelling love and heartbreaking oppression that mark the titular characters' lives.

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ROJO

He mightn't be a household name, but Dario Grandinetti boasts quite the resume, with the Argentinian veteran featuring in everything from Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her and Julieta to twisty anthology Wild Tales. He's also a multiple film festival best actor award winner for his work in Rojo, playing a lawyer navigating the corruption and crime of Granada in the 1970s. Murky, paranoid thrillers were a staple during that decade, and movies both set in and styled after the period keep reaching screens for a reason, as this complex and compelling affair demonstrates. As the film follows its protagonist's entry into a shady world, it delves into the fractured, fraying reality of pre-coup Argentina.

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THE GOOD GIRLS

Peering at the lives of the wealthy isn't just about indulging envious fantasies, dreaming of a different existence or watching a cashed-up trainwreck, Real Housewives-style. Rather, whether in satirical or melodramatic mode — and this Mexican comedy-drama operates in both — it's about examining the inner workings of the upper echelons and laying bare a society from the top down. Expect all of the above in Alejandra Márquez Abella's second feature, which follows the wives of her country's richest men in 1982. A wife to Fernando (Flavio Medina) and a mother to three children, Sofia (Ilse Salas) is accustomed to a charmed life, until her and her pals experience the other side.

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WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

Breakups, breakdowns, breaking free, blending sleeping pills into gazpacho — that's actor Pepa Marcos' (Carmen Maura) life when she's dumped by her fellow thespian boyfriend Iván (Fernando Guillén). It's also just the beginning of the always spirited, often farcical story that drives this masterful 1988 comedy from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar. One of the filmmaker's deserved early hits, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is also the film that helped introduce the world to Antonio Banderas' charms. It wasn't the pair's first collaboration; however, this Oscar-nominated, multiple Goya-winning film thrust both the director and his star to greater attention, and it's easy to see why.

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The Moro Spanish Film Festival tours Australia from April 16, screening at Sydney's Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona and Palace Central from April 16 to May 8; Melbourne's Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Balwyn, Kino Cinemas and The Astor Theatre from April 18 to May 8; Brisbane's Palace Barracks and Palace James Street from April 24 to May 15; and Perth's Palace Cinema Paradiso from April 24 to May 15. For more information, visit the festival website.

Published on April 24, 2019 by Sarah Ward

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