White knuckle thrillers, sun-dappled love stories and fish out of water comedies — you'll find them all in the lineup at this year's Spanish Film Festival. Taking over the screens at select Palace Cinemas around the country, the latest edition of this much-loved festival features 39 titles in total, including a loose remake of a recent Australian effort that will double as the opening night film. A kinky, sex-positive comedy inspired by Josh Lawson's The Little Death, Paco Leon's Kiki, Love to Love should get things off to a smoldering start.
Other standouts on the program include crime thrillers such as The Bar and Smoke and Mirrors, and a retrospective stream dedicated to the works of iconic actor and singer Ana Belen. The festival will conclude with an early screening of The Trip to Spain, the much anticipated third chapter in the big screen travels of comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
Below, check out our list of the five must-see films of this year's Spanish Film Festival.
The title of Rodrigo Sorogoyen's new film is a little on the ominous side, but then from all reports that's rather fitting. Set in Madrid during a fiercely hot summer against the backdrop of anti-austerity protests and a visit by the pope, May God Save Us tracks a pair of veteran cops on the trail of a violent serial killer. A classic cat-and-mouse thriller, the picture won Best Screenplay at last year's San Sebastian International Film Festival, and has been compared by critics to the blood-spattered films of David Fincher.
This year's centerpiece film arrives at the Spanish Film Festival on the back of considerable critical acclaim. Directed by Carla Simon Pipó, who won Best First Feature at the 2017 Berlinale, Summer 1993 follows six-year-old Frida, who after the death of her parents is swept from Barcelona to the Catalan provinces to begin a new life with her aunt and uncle. A simple, sensitive coming-of-age story, the film is a must-see for cinephiles, and might well be our number one pick of the entire festival.
The latest effort from directorial double act Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn, The Distinguished Citizen earned major plaudits at last year's Venice Film Festival, including a Best Actor gong for its leading man Oscar Martínez. A familiar face to Argentinean audiences, here Martínez plays Daniel Mantovani, a taciturn novelist who returns to his tiny hometown in order to accept an award and maybe find some inspiration. What follows has been billed as a biting big screen farce about jealousy, creativity and the perils of success.
In terms of star power, this sumptuous period piece from Oscar winner Fernando Trueba is likely the biggest title on this year's Spanish Film Festival program. Reprising her role from Trueba's 1998 film The Girl of Your Dreams, Penelope Cruz plays Macarena Granada, a Hollywood movie star who returns to her native Spain for a film shoot, only for the production to run afoul of Franco's regime. Both a send-up of fascism and a loving tribute to 1950s Spanish cinema, with supporting turns by The Princess Bride co-stars Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin, The Queen of Spain shapes up as a surefire crowdpleaser.
After touring the finest restaurants that England and then Italy had to offer, comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back for their latest gastronomic adventure. Directed once again by Michael Winterbottom, The Trip to Spain promises more of the same for fans of the previous two Trip films, with charming vistas, mouthwatering food and free-flowing banter. Although it's due to receive a theatrical release later in the year, closing night is your chance to see one of the year's funniest films before any of your friends.
The Spanish Film Festival tours Australia from April 18, screening at Sydney's Palace Norton Street and Palace Verona from April 18 to May 7; Melbourne's Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth and Kino Cinemas from April 20 to May 7, and Brisbane's Palace Barracks and Palace Centro from April 27 to May 14. For more information, visit the festival website.