La Mirada Film Festival in Australia

31/03/2010 at 7:01 am Leave a comment

Now in its fourth year, La Mirada Film Festival is a boutique, Spanish language film and cultural festival co-programmed by Festival Director Rocio Garcia and Spanish cinema maestro, Pedro Almodóvar. And locals have taken it to their hearts.

Madrid-born Garcia met Almodóvar when she worked as an attachment on his 1988 comedy classic, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown . It was her first job in the film industry, and it forged a professional relationship with both Almodóvar and the Spanish film industry, that has endured to this day. Garcia arrived in Australia in 1999 and continues to spend three months in Spain annually. When she arrived here, “Spanish film and culture wasn’t accurately represented in Australia,” she reflects. As a result, she decided to put together a showcase of Spanish cinema and culture that was more “sophisticated, real and true”.

For the first festival, Garcia enlisted the help of the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA) as well as her illustrious friend, Almodóvar.

“Almodóvar became involved in the project very early on,” Garcia explains. “He knows that he is very fortunate that his work is seen all over the world and that he has wide recognition and thought it was a great opportunity to showcase the work of other, unknown filmmakers.

“It was also very important to present films that haven’t been seen in Australia that are considered masterpieces of international cinema. These are the films that we’ve rescued through the program that Almodóvar curates.”

From its early focus on the films of Spain, La Mirada has expanded to include Spanish-language films from Latin America with the majority of the films sourced from the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the Latin American film market, Ventana Sur. The latter is an effort by the Cannes Festival, Marche du Film, to take the Cannes brand abroad, and is a partnership with Argentina’s INCAA film institute.

Almodóvar curates the ‘classic section’ of the Festival. This year, two of the films selected by Almodóvar will screen with English subtitles for the very first time. These are the 1962 classic, Robbery at 3 O’Clock (Atraco a Las Tres) and 1959 comedy, The Swindlers (Los Tramposos). The films are also captioned for the deaf community and will be accompanied by an Auslan interpreter for Almodóvar’s video introduction.

Each year guest curators also participate in the La Mirada program. “The idea was that by bringing guest curators from other places in the world who knew Spanish cinema, and thought the cinema was important, we would raise awareness and give a dimension to Spanish spoken cinema that most people are not aware of,” Garcia says.

The inaugural festival’s guest curator was New York based novelist and filmmaker Paul Auster. La Mirada 2009 was jointly guest-curated by Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz.  This year it is Martin Scorsese and Stephen Daldry who share their personal favourites. While their selected films are not made public prior to their screening, Scorsese and Daldry both introduce their sessions by video.

Garcia has a specific rational for keeping the guest curator’s selections under wraps: “If people don’t know what they are going to see before they sit down, the first thing they do see is actually Scorsese or Daldry talking to them about the film and telling them why they chose it. In this way, the whole concept of the festival, La Mirada, which means ‘looking through somebody’s eyes’, really happens! That is the whole purpose of it – to see the world through a different perspective.”

The program for La Mirada 2010 includes a number of Australian premieres from across the Spanish-speaking film world such as Optical Illusions (Ilusiones Ópticas) the award winning Chilean drama by debut feature director, Christian Jiménez; as well as films by established directors Isabel Coixet with Map Of The Sounds of Tokyo (Mapa De Los Sonidos De Tokio) and Alejandro Amenabar’s 1996 feature debut, the thriller Thesis (Tesis). The festival opens with a gala screening of the double Goya Award winning, Me Too (Yo También, left) by directors Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro. The comedy-drama stars Pablo Pineda and Lola Dueñas (Volver, Broken Embraces, The Sea Inside) in their award winning performances. Other highlights include Argentinean director Gabriel Pomeraniec’s first documentary Tango, A Story with Jews (Tango, Una Historia Con Judíos) followed by a Q&A and a free tango class.

Special guests of the festival are award winning actor, Antonio de la Torre who will present the films, Fat People (Gordos, right) directed by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo and The Island Inside (La Isla Interior) directed by Felix Sabroso and Dunia Ayaso. Director, José Antonio Salgot will present Mother Dearly Beloved (Mater Amatisima), which has been selected by Pedro Almodóvar for his ‘Almodóvar Presents’ program in this year’s La Mirada. Both films are Australian premieres

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