Sydney Times



Written by Aksel Ritenis


The HSBC Spanish Film Festival presented by Palace, an annual celebration of film and culture from Spain and Latin America, will screen at Palace Cinemas, Luna Palace Cinemas and Palace Nova Cinemas from this June to July.

The highly anticipated Festival is celebrating 25 years in 2023 and befitting such a milestone, will be presenting a thirty-two-film strong lineup that offers exciting, inspiring and entertaining viewing from the region. The many highlights include a focus on Women in Filmmaking featuring the work of seven prominent Spanish and Latin American female directors, a comprehensive Carlos Saura retrospective, a Uruguayan documentary with an Australian connection and much, much more.

The festival is delighted to welcome new Naming Partner HSBC, one the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations. Jessica Power, Head of Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC Bank Australia Limited, says “We’re thrilled to be involved in this year’s Festival. Much like the power of film, we at HSBC believe that by bringing people and ideas together we can open up a world of opportunity. We’re sure that all attendees to this year’s Festival will love the global selection of compelling storytelling.”

Opening this year’s festival is the Australian premiere of delicious comedy TWO MANY CHEFS (La vida padre). Set in Bilbao’s world of high cuisine, this Spanish box office hit stars Karra Elejalde and Enric Auquer as a father and son whose unexpected reunion after thirty years apart puts their ideas about cooking and life to the test.

Festival Centrepiece ALCARRÀS has been a critical and audience success in Spain, taking home the coveted Golden Bear at Berlinale in 2022.  Carla Simón’s personal and beautifully observed new ensemble drama follows a family of Catalonian farmers who, after generations harvesting the same land, face eviction and an uncertain future.
The 2023 Festival Retrospective Lord of Dance: A Focus on Carlos Saura showcases a selection of works from the legendary Spanish filmmaker who passed away earlier this year. Brimming with his vibrant passion for music, art and dance, this selection of Saura’s work displays the consummate filmmaker’s dedication to presenting and showcasing culture through creativity.

The critically acclaimed Spanish box office hit thriller PRISON 77 (Modelo 77) is one of two 2023 Special Presentations. The five-time Goya Award-winning film from Alberto Rodríguez, (Marshland) follows a young accountant awaiting trial in 1977 who joins a group of prisoners demanding amnesty. The second Special Presentation is Colombia’s award-winning drama THE KINGS OF THE WORLD (Los reyes del mundo) from director Laura Mora Ortega, which follows five Medellín teenagers from the streets who set out on an adventure in search of the promised land.

Other exceptional thrillers include gripping true crime thriller A SINGULAR CRIME (Un crimen Argentino) set in 1980s Argentina, in which two jurists race against time to try to solve the case of an intriguing disappearance of a wealthy businessman; and STARING AT STRANGERS (No mires a los ojos) starring Paco León as a man who is spying on a family from inside a closet, becoming a mysterious presence in their lives.

For comedy lovers, this year’s offerings includes the uplifting film for all ages FULL OF GRACE (Llenos de gracia), starring top Spanish actress Carmen Machi and set in a boarding school in the 1990s; Spanish box office hit FOUR’S A CROWD (El cuarto pasajero) from Álex de la Iglesia, about a 50-year-old divorcee with financial problems who begins sharing his car with strangers via an app; GRANDFATHERS (Abuelos) the story of three friends near retirement age who dare to launch a kindergarten business from scratch and heartwarming adventure LET THE DANCE BEGIN (Empieza el baile) about a once-famous tango dance couple (played by Darío Grandinetti and Mercedes Morán) who reunite and go on a road trip across Argentina with an old friend.

Based on the celebrated play by Matías del Federico and from multi-award winner Gerado Herrero, dramatic comedy IN THERAPY (Bajo terapia) follows three married couples in therapy and features an excellent ensemble cast. Money, love and ambition are the subject of THE TE$T (El Test), a smart comedy from Dani de la Orden.
A salute to Mexican wit, MIGHTY VICTORIA (El Poderoso Victoria) is a comedic adventure set in a small desert town in 1930s Mexico which chronicles the crazy plan of a group of locals who decide to build their own steam train. A modern comedy, MY FATHER’S MEXICAN WEDDING (La novia de América) follows two Spanish siblings as they travel to Mexico to attend the wedding of their father to a woman he met online.

Family friendly films include THE THREE WISE MEN VS SANTA (Reyes contra Santa) and from Argentina, TODAY WE FIX THE WORLD (Hoy se arregla el mundo), in which a busy talk show producer discovers that he is not the real father of his nine-year-old son, so they set off on an adventure of discovery.

Other Cine Latino gems include Ana García Blaya’s drama THE WOMAN FROM URUGUAY (La Uruguaya) based on the acclaimed novel by Pedro Mairal; FEROCIOUS WOLF (Lobo Feroz), a tense, twisted, and darkly comic thriller starring Adriana Ugarte and Javier Gutiérrez and HISTORY OF THE OCCULT (Historia de lo Oculto) a stylish 1980s set horror film filmed in black and white, following the final live broadcast of a current affairs program where an occult conspiracy threatens to be exposed.

Shot almost entirely in the majestic Cordillera de las Andes of Mendoza in Argentina, THE BROKEN LAND (Las Rojas) is a feminist western imbued with magic realism, about two women who are willing to do anything to protect a dream.

Two fascinating true stories also feature this year; FREE (Libres) a remarkable documentary about twelve monasteries in Spain and the interior lives of those who have given themselves completely to a cloistered life of prayer, and the story with an Australian connection GREG MORTIMER (Greg Mortimer, en busca de una tierra solidaria), documenting the travails of passengers and crew aboard the Australian cruise ship that left for Antarctica just before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other new Spanish cinema includes IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN (Las buenas compañías), an elegant drama set in the Basque Country in the late 1970s. Actress-director Silvia Munt’s tribute to the brave women of a generation explores the fight for women’s rights and the right to abortion. Also female-focused is affectionate drama about the world of acting, fame and family SOMEONE WHO TAKES CARE OF ME (Alguien que cuide de mi), starring three-time Goya Award Winner Emma Suárez; TOBACCO BARNS (Secaderos) set in dreamy landscapes, takes viewers to a mysterious and moving summer amongst the tobacco barns ; WILD FLOWERS (Girasoles silvestres), a powerful reflection of everyday life as a young single mother battles to defend her children while embarking on a love affair and CORK (Suro), the fascinating debut feature from Mikel Gurrea which explores the balance of power in relationships, as a Barcelona couple move to the country to build a new life in the cork-tree forests.

CARMEN – This 40th anniversary presentation showcases Carlos Saura’s biggest international box-office success with this self-reflexive meditation on both Bizet’s popular opera Carmen, featuring legendary dancers Antonio Gades and Laura del Sol.
FADOS – A unique film experience investigating fado, a traditional Portuguese music genre dating back to 1820 featuring top artists and dancer from Portugal, Brazil and Cape Verde.
J: BEYOND FLAMENCO (Jota de Saura) – An intimate engagement with the vivacity and charisma of the jota, a waltz-like castanet dance originating in the province of Aragon, the birthplace of Carlos Saura.
THE KING OF ALL THE WORLD (El rey de todo el mundo) – A cinematic collage of incredible music, extraordinary dance forms and stunning visuals, this musical explores the folkloric tradition of the music and dance of Mexico.
WALLS CAN TALK (Las paredes hablan) – In his final film before his death earlier this year, Carlos Saura investigates how “the wall” ties in with the evolution and relationship of art, acting as a creative canvas for thousands of years. All sessions will be preceded by the short film Goya: May 3, an innovative audio-visual project that offers a cinematographic recreation of Goya’s iconic painting.

The 2023 HSBC Spanish Film Festival will take place nationally from 14 June to 5 July in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Byron Bay, from 20 June to 12 July in Sydney. ¡Viva la fiesta!

Tickets on sale from 17 May. Visit

Canberra 14 June – 5 July:  Palace Electric Cinema.
Adelaide 14 June – 5 July: Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.
Brisbane 14 June – 5 July:  Palace James Street and Palace Barracks.
Melbourne 15 June-5 July: The Astor Theatre, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Westgarth, The Kino, Palace Balwyn and Pentridge Cinema.
Perth 15 June – 5 July: Palace Raine Square, Luna Leederville and Luna on SX.
Byron Bay 15 June – 5 July: Palace Byron Bay.
Sydney 20 June – 12 July: Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Palace Central and Chauvel Cinema.

For updates and more information, visit and join the mailing list or follow;
Facebook @SpanishFilmFestival
Instagram/Twitter @spanishfilmfest

About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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