PAULETTE ARVIZU 20th Spanish Film Festival interview

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This week the Spanish Film Festival is coming to Perth. From April 27 to May 17, Cinema Paradiso will host a cornucopia of Spanish films, from all genres, with something for all ages and tastes. In preparations for this DAVID O’CONNELL sat down with Festival Director Paulette Arvizu to find out what the state of Spanish cinema is right now, and what her recommendations for the festival are.

This year marks a big milestone for the film festival. “It’s the 20th anniversary and we’re celebrating with an amazing program of 39 films, and we’re opening with a bang,” exclaimed Arvizu. “We’re opening with Kiki Love to Love, the new Paco Leon film.” The film has a rather curious connection to Australia. “It’s based on the Australian film The Little Death, but it’s not a remake – it’s a totally different film with the same plot and story line. It’s a really funny film that brushes on everything; sex, relationships, fantasy and fetishes. Great to open the festival.”

Arvizu’s primary recommendation is the Penelope Cruz film Queen Of Spain, “Starring Cruz as a big Hollywood star who goes back to Spain to shoot an epic blockbuster. Set in the 50s, so it’s got great period pieces and scenery. It’s the follow up to Girl Of Your Dreams, by Fernando Truebo (the Academy Award winning writer/ director of 1994’s Best Foreign Film Belle Epoch),” she says. It also has the added bonus of reuniting Princess Bride alumni Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes.

Her other recommendations include The Fury Of A Patient Man (winner of the Best Picture at the Goyas – Spain’s Oscars), the autobiographical Summer 1993, The Bar, the historical war epic 1898: Our Last Men in the Philippines, Spain in a Day. There is also the collection of music and dance based documentary films creating The Flamenco Section, and a two films for kids.

Obviously the program represents a very wide range, with a broad appeal, which is what this year is about. “This year we have a really broad spectrum,” says Arvizu. “Sometimes there is a theme, but with the 20th anniversary we just wanted to bring the strongest Spanish films together. Although this year the thrillers are very strong. We have four or five great thrillers, and less comedies. It really depends on what is produced in a year, and if you look at the Goya Awards, there’s a lot of crimes and thrillers.”

For Arvizu this is a reflection of strong Spanish cinema, despite the continuing economic doldrums. “Spain is still going through a crisis, and the unemployment rate is still really high, but the industry somehow felt really healthy. It reflects on the quantity of films that we have 39 showing, many of them Australian premiers, and they are quality films. It was really hard to reject films this year as they were amazing productions.”

It is also an indication as to what makes Spanish cinema so distinctive. “Spanish films really add spice. Everything is so alive, and playful, and different.”

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