Sunday, December 7, 2008

Spanish Cinema Now Opens This Weekend and Runs From Dec. 5-24

The Film Society of Lincoln Center takes New Yorkers to the Iberian Peninsula this December as 20 new features, a look back on the career of actor Javier Cámara,and a rare look at Spain’s early experimental cinema are presented.

Spanish Cinema Now returns for its 17th year at the Walter Reade Theater, Dec. 5-24, 2008. The acclaimed annual showcase of the best new filmmaking from Spain will present festival prizewinners “Before the Fall,” “Chef’s Special,” “Pretexts,” Spain’s best foreign language film Oscar-nominee “Blind Sunflowers,” and 16 other new features, many in their North American, U.S., or New York premieres, along with a special program of short films.

The showcase begins on Friday, Dec. 5, with two feature film debuts enjoying considerable acclaim around the world. The Opening Night selection, the North American premiere of Nacho Velilla’s charming comedy of manners “Chef’s Special,” will screen at 7:00 p.m.

The New York premiere of F. Javier Gutiérrez’s “Before the Fall” will follow at 9:30 p.m.“Chef’s Special,” a critical and popular hit in Spain about a successful, openly gay chef whose life is upended by the arrival of his children from a prior marriage, is one of seven films featured in the series’ Spotlight on Javier Cámara.

Screening throughout Spanish Cinema Now, these selections present the actor’s dynamic range over the past six years as he approaches international stardom. The retrospective includes films in which he made his name—as the male nurse devoted to the care of a beautiful coma victim in Pedro Almódovar’s 2002 Oscar-winner “Talk to Her” and as a salesman turned low-budget Swedish porn director in the hit 2003 comedy “Torremolinos 73”—as well as his prizewinning turn in this year’s Oscar-contender “Blind Sunflowers,” as a Republican schoolteacher in hiding during the Spanish Civil War. Cámara will introduce several of these screenings.

Gutiérrez’s “Before the Fall,” a provocative depiction of a world waiting for its destruction labeled “one of the most original genre films in years” by the AFI Festival’s Lane Kneedler, won four awards including the Golden Biznaga for best film at this year’s Málaga Spanish Film Festival.”

A sidebar offers a rare glimpse at the experimental films that emerged in Spain during cinema’s early rise, while several recent classics including Pedro Almódovar’s “Talk To Her” fill out the series’s spotlight look at celebrated actor Javier Cámara, who will attend several screenings.

Contemporary Spanish directors have led the way in exploring new approaches to traditional film genres,” says Richard Peña, program director at the Film Society, “and this year’s selections for Spanish Cinema Now powerfully illustrate this tendency.

Other prominent genre titles in the series include Nacho Vigalondo’s inventive example of low-budget intrigue “Timecrimes,” Gonzalo López-Gallego’s dramatic suspense thriller set in a remote mountain landscape “King of the Hill,” and the Spanish box office smash horror film “[REC],” following a camera crew into an apartment inhabited by zombies, that was re-made in the U.S. as “Quarantine.” The original screens on successive weekends in the series in its North American premiere.

Santiago Zannou’s “One-Armed Trick,” a lively tour through Spain’s growing hip-hop scene starring one of its most prominent performers—Juan Manuel Montillo, aka El Langui, lead singer of La Excepcion—is one of several series films taking on Spain’s social and cultural perspectives. “My Prison Yard” analyzes one woman’s return to prison against the support of the theater workshop she discovers inside the walls.

Acclaimed actress Silvia Munt won the best director award at this year’s Málaga Spanish Film Festival for her directorial debut, “Pretexts,” chronicling the intersection of a theater director’s tumultuous relationship with her husband and her most ambitious production. Two films, Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón’s “Everyone’s Invited” and Gorka Merchán’s “My Father’s House,” vividly investigate the ongoing conflict in the Basque region.

A second series sidebar, Experimental Cinema in Spain, offers a rare glimpse at one of Spanish filmmaking’s lesser-known historical trends through two programs selected by Jose Maria Prado, director of Filmoteca Española. Nemesio M. Sobrevila’s “The Sixth Sense,” a groundbreaking 1929 silent comedy mixing depression, psychoanalysis, and a marvelous critique of image culture, will screen with live piano accompaniment by Carolyn Schwarz on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 1:30 p.m.

The program Avant-Garde Shorts presents a series of remarkable if rarely screened shorts from the first half of the century by Spanish luminaries such as playwright Enrique Jardiel Poncela and director Jose Val del Omar, called “one of the great unknown filmmakers in world cinema” by film writer Amos Vogel.

Spanish Cinema Now is presented in collaboration with the Instituto de la Cinematografia y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA) of the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the Instituto Cervantes of New York. Promotional support from the New York Latin Media and Entertainment Commission.

Single screening tickets for Spanish Cinema Now 2008 are $11; $7 for Film Society members, students and children (6-12, accompanied by an adult); and $8 for seniors (62+). They are available at both the Walter Reade Theater box office and online at available at the Walter Reade Theater box office and online at A series pass admitting one person to a total of five titles in the series can be purchased at the Walter Reade Theater box office (cash only) for $40; $30 for Film Society members. For information, call (212) 875-5601.

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