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February 3, 2023

A taste of sunny Spain in soggy Byron

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A gripping drama based on a true story about the rescue of a mother and child kidnapped by FARC guerrilla fighters in Colombia; a Mexican crime thriller set against the backdrop of the World Cup soccer finals; the trials and tribulations of an eccentric Canary Islands family, and an outrageous comedy about Carmina Barrios, the foul-mouthed and unflinching manager of a tavern in Seville – the Spanish Film Festival program features a range of characters and films as diverse as the many countries around the world where Spanish is the lingua franca.

The festival, at the Palace Byron Bay, opens with a bang next Thursday, June 20, with Cesc Gay’s A Gun in Each Hand. Featuring one of the most star-studded and talented casts assembled in modern Spanish cinema, A Gun in Each Hand is a witty and brutally hilarious portrait of forty-something men and the changing gender roles of contemporary Spanish society.

Guests can celebrate the festival opening with a post-film fiesta enlivened by Spanish wine and beer courtesy of Estella Damm and Torres wines, tapas and live entertainment.


Luis Buñuel’s 1970s classic Tristana is a surrealist masterpiece starring Catherine Deneuve that explores religion, politics and love in a way that marks it as a revolutionary film still to this day. This dark, artistic love story brings the festival to a close on Wednesday June 26, in a tribute to this internationally revered Spanish director who changed the landscape of cinema forever.

In addition to these two key events the festival features nine other standout Spanish and Spanish-speaking Latin American titles.

‘This is an exciting year for Spanish cinema and our program reflects the quality emerging from these regions. We are thrilled to present films that capture the true spirit and scope of Spanish and Spanish-speaking Latin American film,’ said Palace Cinemas acting national festivals manager Genevieve Kelly.

Friday night’s feature Clandestine Childhood was filmed in Argentina, Spain and Brazil, and is a riveting, award-winning debut film from director Benjamin Avila. Drawn from his own experiences as a young boy in the politically oppressed South America of the 1970s, this is a touching and deeply personal film that marks Avila as an unmistakeable talent to watch.

Three soccer world cups form the backdrop for Days of Grace, a gripping crime drama set in Mexico City, which was a 2011 Cannes Film Festival Camera d’Or nominee and winner of eight awards including Best Actor, Best First Work and Best Supporting Actress at the 2012 Ariel Awards of Mexico. Days of Grace screens on Saturday, followed by Oscar winning director Fernando Trueba’s The Artist and the Model. Nominated for 13 Goya Awards including Best Director and Best Picture, this exceptional Spanish production, in the French-language, unfolds in the rural splendour of the French Pyrenees in 1943. The drama continues on Saturday night with Operation E, which delivers a fresh and compelling look at the Colombian guerrilla war. Based on the true story of hostage negotiations that led to the release of politician Clara Rojas and her son, Operation E blends elements of a thriller with a documentary style realism, adding a sense of urgency and authenticity to this very human story.

Sunday’s films showcase the humour and quirkiness for which Spanish films are so beloved, beginning with The Summer Side, a hilarious, eccentric and lively gem from the Canary Islands which centres on the trials and tribulations of a wonderfully dysfunctional family. Following the death of their patriarch, they navigate the choppy waters of family feuds, love, betrayal, friendship and burgeoning sexuality. Don’t Fall In Love With Me puts a fresh spin on the romantic comedy genre, with an added dose of courage and sincerity, as three intersecting stories explore the relationships of a new generation of young Argentinians seeking to live a more spontaneous life.


The End (Fin), screening on Sunday night, is a suspense-filled, visually stunning drama from the producers of The Impossible and Biutiful that wraps a thought-provoking novel by David Monteagudo in blockbuster production values. With brilliant performances from Maribel Verdú (Pan’s Labyrinth), Clara Lago and Daniel Grao, The End will have you glued to your seat right up until its last haunting moments.

Another outstanding thriller set to keep the audience guessing until its final breathtaking moments is The Body, a drama in the grand tradition of Hitchcock. From the producers of the popular and award-winning horror film The Orphanage, and starring that film’s Belén Rueda, this is a tightly wound film full of suspense, darkly fascinating characters and clever plot twists that come together for a brilliant ending.

The glorious and outrageous comedy Carmina or Blow Up was a smash hit in Spain, with audiences embracing the unabashedly crass and foul-mouthed Carmina Barrios. Written and directed by Paco León in the style of a documentary, the bizarre and hilarious Carmina or Blow Up follows the filmmaker’s mother, a 58-year-old tavern manager in Seville. Carmina is a strong, coarse and unflinching woman who mows down anything that gets in her way. This is a film and a character that audiences will never forget.

Session times, tickets and more information on all the films are available at www.spanishfilmfestival.com.au, with programs and tickets also available at Palace Byron Bay Cinema.


Ticket giveaway

Echonetdaily has one free double pass to the session of your choice (except opening and closing nights) to the first person to email us at [email protected] and correctly name the closing night film.

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