Spanish film fest ‘Pelicula 2020’ opens in Manila this weekend, here’s what to ‘Si’

Scene from El Increible Finde Menguante <i>Photo: Instituto Cervantes de Manila</i>
Scene from El Increible Finde Menguante Photo: Instituto Cervantes de Manila

Bad puns aside, the 19th edition of Pelicula, Manila’s annual Spanish film festival, is kicking off this weekend, running from Oct. 3 to Oct. 11.

Like most festivals pushing through during this pandemic, the one-week affair will happen virtually. Eight feature films and four shorts will stream over at Pelicula’s website, each available to view free for 24 hours not just in the Philippines, but also in Thailand and Australia.

Shorts on the roster include Tokwifi by Filipino director Carla Pulido Ocampo, Lost & Found by Australian director Andrew Goldsmith, Suc de Sindira by Spanish director Irene Moray, and Dossier of the Dossier by Thai director Sorayos Prapapan. Discussions and webinars will also push through, which you can keep track of at the site or over at Instituto Cervantes de Manila’s Facebook page.

But for now, here’s a sneak peek of what to expect on the feature film front.

La Filla d’Algu (“The Days to Come”by Marcel Alcantara and 10 others 

A pregnant lawyer from Barcelona is prepping for a high-profile trial. But things get extra tricky when the father of her unborn baby disappears a day before she faces legal proceedings. If the curious plot doesn’t stir enough intrigue, then consider watching for the 11 students of Escuela Superior de Cine y Audiovisuales de Cataluña (The Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia) who are at the directorial helm of this 2019 suspense-drama.

Stars: Aina Clotet and Ramon Vilageliu
Streams: Oct. 3 (Saturday)


El Increible Finde Menguante (“The  Incredible Shrinking Weekend”) by Jon Mikel Caballero 

In the mood for a Ground Hog Daytype feature, but with younger and prettier people, who on the outset were meant to be enjoying a fun weekend in the woods? Well, you can tune into this gem by writer-director Jon Mikel Caballero. The sci-fi mystery follows anti-hero Alba, who is trapped in a weekend time loop with her friends, except each cycle repetition keeps getting shorter and shorter. Will there still be booze to drink and trails to hike by the end of the bizarre do-over? Tune in to find out.

Stars: Iria del Río, Adam Quintero, and Nadia de Santiago
Streams: Oct. 4 (Sunday)


Jaulas (“Cages“) by Nicolas Pacheco

A mother fed up with her husband’s abuse takes her teenage daughter and flees their shanty to venture for the big city. The nearly two-hour film tells a lyrical story that fuses fantasy and reality in this debut film by director Nicolas Pacheco. Will the mother-daughter duo of Concha and Adela be able to escape their “cages” as the title points out? The answer sits at the end of this drama.

Stars: Iria del Río, Adam Quintero, and Nadia de Santiago
Streams: Oct. 5 (Monday)


El Despertar de las Hormigas (“The Awakening of the Ants”) by Antonella Sudasassi

A Best International Feature Film-candidate at this year’s Oscars, this Costa Rican outing follows a provincial mother who’s spread thin between being a good wife, daughter-in-law, and mom to her two kids. But when her husband keeps pushing for a third child, Isabel is forced to make changes of her own. Apparently, even mothers can have their own coming-of-age and this film by director Antonella Sudasassi takes us through it.

Stars: Daniela Valenciano, Leynar Gomez, and Isabella Moscoso
Streams: Oct. 6 (Tuesday)


El Cuadro (“The Painting”) by Andres Sanz

A two-hour documentary unraveling the mystery behind Spanish artist Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas  or “The Ladies in Waiting.” The 1600s painting of the young Margaret Theresa of Spain, flanked by a royal entourage, palace pets in tow, is touted as the most mystifying and interpreted artwork in history. Director Andres Sanz attempts to pull back the curtains on the historical artifact.

Stars: Valentín J. Alejandrez, Svetlana Alpers, and Jonathan Brown
Streams: Oct. 7 (Wednesday)

Mudar la piel (“The Spy Within”) by Ana Schulz

Another documentary in the roster, The Spy Within follows director Ana Schulz’s father Juan Gutierrez as he struggles to broker peace between separatist organization Basque Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (“Basque Homeland and Liberty”) and the Spanish government. Betrayal of friendship with a secret service agent is also thrown into the mix and so is Schulz’s relationship with the spy and his father in this bizarre recording of events that prove that stranger things happen in real life.

Stars: Juan Gutierrez, Mingo Rafols, and Frauke Schulz
Streams: Oct. 8 (Thursday)


Asamblea (“Assembly”)by Alex Montoya

Perhaps to offset the heaviness of the last feature, here’s a satirical take on people banding together to protest social issues courtesy of director Alex Montoya’s Asemblea. Montoya’s debut film parodies political reunions and the challenges seemingly forward-thinking people face in assembly, hence the title. Who knew politics and knee-slapping comedy goes hand in hand? Well, we’ve known for a while now, but luckily so does Montoya.

Stars: Cristina Plazas, Francesc Garrido, and Nacho Fresneda
Streams: Oct. 9 (Friday)


Arima by Jaione Camborda

Rounding off the feature films in the roster is this fantasy-drama about a group of women and some (non-romantic, non-Patrick Swayze-like) ghosts. Real and imaginary blurs in director Jaione Camborda’s directorial debut, which plays up fear, suspicion, memory, and desire in a neatly wrapped rural tale. If you’re looking for a spooky thriller, look no further.

Stars: Melania Cruz, Tito Asorey, Rosa Puga Davila
Streams: Oct. 10 (Saturday)


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