Spanish Cinema's Best on View in New York

This series not only highlights some of Spain's best of the last year, but also offers an opportunity to see a masterpiece of "exiled" Spanish cinema.
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For nearly 20 years, The Film Society of Lincoln Center has presented Spanish Cinema Now -- with the Instituto de la Cinematografia y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA) of the Spanish Ministry of Culture and New York's Instituto Cervantes -- a showcase for the growing catalog of fine films coming out of that country on Europe's southernmost peninsula.

Running from Dec. 10-23 at the Walter Reade Theater, the series not only highlights some of Spain's best of the last year, but also spotlights the work of Agustí Villaronga, one of Spanish cinema's darkest filmmakers. It also offers an opportunity to see a masterpiece of "exiled" Spanish cinema, On the Empty Balcony (courtesy of the Filmoteca Española).

[At left: Villaronga and actor Lluis Homar] And with this year's program reflecting the Spanish Civil War's 70th anniversary, a number of the films address that war's history and its consequences through their narratives, settings, atmosphere and surreal characters. One such film, Alex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus/Balade Triste throws the painful experience of the war and Franco's victory into the context of an audacious comedic horror tale centered on two circus clowns who battle for the love of a beautiful acrobat. His film deconstructs myths of the Civil War with outrageous humor and mind-bending absurd imagery.

Also featured is the fest's opener, Even The Rain starring Gael Garcia Bernal, a film that wrestles with the consequences of Spain's horrific record as colonizers. Oscar-winning filmmaker Fernando Tueba has a film with his stamp on it -- the animate movie Chico and Rita, directed by Trueba and the internationally-celebrated Spanish designer Javier Mariscal. The designer also appears at the Cervantes Institute Tuesday at 6 p.m. to talk about making the film.

Also on Tuesday, with support from the Consulate of Spain and co-presented with the Flaherty Film Seminar, a program of the best Spanish experimental and non-fiction works of the last few years will be seen from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. at The King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center of New York University (53 Washington Square South). Curated by Garbiñe Ortega and produced by Lucila Moctezuma, the screening will be followed by a discussion between Ortega and filmmakers with a reception afterwards.

Over the past two decades, Spanish cinema has enjoyed a wonderful renaissance, with directors such as Pedro Almodovar getting recognition not just as the best of the nation's filmmaking but equal to the best internationally.

In attendance during the festival will be some of the filmmakers such as Iciar Bollaín, director of Even the Rain and Paul Laverty, its screenwriter (it is Spain's official submission for Oscar consideration); Trueba, Mariscal and Tono Herraldo, the three directors of Chico and Rita, actor Lluis Homar, from the movies Paper Birds and Julia's Eyes; Emilio Aragon, director of Paper Birds, and Villaronga, to whom the festival dedicates this year's tribute -- showing most of his filmography.

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