Since 2008, Pragda has been partnering with local organizations in North America to feature the award-winning latest generation of Spanish Cinema. This year, in collaboration with the Vancity Theatre and Aja Entertainment, the organization presents the New Spanish Cinema Week from Feb. 10–16,
The series offers individuals a chance to watch films recognized by San Sebastian, Mar de Plata, and Toronto film festivals. The festival also features many winners of the Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscars).
The opening film, Chico & Rita, is an animated feature directed by the multi-awarded Spaniard Fernando Trueva. The film has just been nominated for an Academy Award and is competing against blockbusters like Kung Fu Panda 2 and Rango.
Marta Sanchez, curator of the New Spanish Cinema Week, says that she created the series five years ago trying to offer a window for some of the best cinema made in Europe, and make it accessible to the audience in North America. She argues that there is a lack of exhibitors that are willing to make room for independent foreign-language cinema. She adds that after presenting the series in the U.S. and Canada, it is now in cities like Ottawa and Edmonton, where the non-Hispanic community is more open to these “subtitled” films.
The bet becomes interesting in a city like Vancouver where the New Spanish Cinema Week will try to find a space in the yearly cultural agenda. Victor Martinez Aja, founder of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF), feels optimistic about the support of the cinephile community in town. Looking back after 18 years of the creation of VLAFF, he says that the presence of the Hispanic and Portuguese community in Vancouver is more notable than ever, “Latinos have an increasing participation in international events such as the Jazz Festival, VIFF and PuSh,” he says.
It’s going to be interesting to observe the reaction of Vancouver’s audience to such an eclectic collection of films. The selection includes a screwball musical comedy (With or Without Love), a multi-awarded horror thriller (Kidnapped), a Basque elderly gay drama (80 days), the Goya Award Best Documentary winner (Bicycle, Spoon, Apple), and a mega-production à la Shakespeare in Love about Spain’s most famous dramatist (Lope). Sanchez wonders if the Vancity theatre is going to be filled by the Hispanic demographic willing to support its own-language cinema, or the Canadian anglophone cinephiles that demand more European high-quality cinema.
According to Sanchez, the series succeeds in cities such as Houston and Chicago, where the Latino community is actively organized. A key element is that these networks know how to choose the right venue. In Portland, Ore, where there is a lack of an organized Hispanic community, the event ended up being hosted at an art museum, making it very elitist.
For more information on the New Spanish Cinema Week, visit www.viff.org.