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East End Film Festival returns with Argentine focus

The Last Elvis film

The East End Film Festival is focusing on Argentine films.

The East End Film Festival is back with an eclectic selection of films from around the world – and a special focus on Argentina.

The EEFF began yesterday, 25 June, and continues until 10 July, with more than 70 film screenings around the east end, at venues including the Rio Cinema, Genesis, the Barbican, Stratford Picturehouse, and Rich Mix.

This year’s special focus is on Argentine cinema, with six films and a session of short films on display:

“Following Armando Bo’s dark comic drama The Last Elvis [above] taking the EEFF’s top award in 2012, Bo returns to the festival as the EEFF’s Director in Residence as the festival presents a phenomenal selection of films from new Argentine directors, including the extraordinary, mystical debut from Pablo Trapero’s screenwriting partner Alejandro Fidel, The Wild Ones; Jazmin Lopez’s Leones, Mariano Llinás’s mind-bending meta-thriiler Extraordinary Stories; a selection of Argentina’s most vital short films; and a special rescreening of El Ultimo Elvis.”

The festival will also be holding a series of talks and film-making workshops. For more information, see the East End Film Festival website.

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Almeria, Spain stars in Doctor Who

Doctor Who Town Called Mercy

Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy filmed in Almeria, Spain. Image: BBC

If you happen to tune into this week’s episode of Doctor Who, A Town Called Mercy, you’ll notice it’s set in a surprisingly authentic-looking wild west town.

Authentic, at least, for a show that’s usually filmed in Cardiff. That’s because it was shot on location in Almeria, Spain, the setting for countless spaghetti westerns.

Filmmakers began flocking to Europe’s only desert back in the ’60s. The first film shot there was ‘Ojo por Ojo’ in 1957, which received a wide release and so brought Almeria’s landscapes to a wider audience. The first Almeria-set western was ‘Tierra brutal’ in 1961.

The heyday of Almeria’s film scene was the era of Sergio Leone: most of his Fistful of Dollars trilogy was shot at ‘Mini-Hollywood’, a wild-west set and now tourist attraction.

Almeria was also used in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, doubling for Aqaba in the famous scene where Lawrence’s rebels capture the town from the land, rather than, as expected, the sea.

More recently, it was the setting for the desert scenes in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (remember the sequence with Indy on horseback, in which he battles a tank?).

Doctor Who in Spain

Doctor Who shooting in Spain. Image:

Now it’s the turn of another screen icon to land in Almeria. “Location shooting at this level is such a blast of fresh air for the show – wide open spaces and wide open skies!”, says Steven Moffat, executive producer of Doctor Who. “We have snowy mountains for the series opener, New York for the finale and along the way a full-blooded Western shot on location where all the best cowboy movies come from – Spain.”

(Those snowy mountains, incidentally, were the nearby Sierra Nevada in Granada, which the crew apparently lucked on while scouting the area.)

Mini Hollywood

Mini Hollywood in Spain (2003): authentic enough, bar the vending machines.

There are three wild-west towns left in the desert outside Tabernas, Almeria. Doctor Who shot at Fort Bravo and Mini-Hollywood, now called El Oasys, which was used for the Leone films. I visited Mini Hollywood in 2003, and it proved to be one of the most memorable places I’ve been – and not just in Spain. I loved the desert and could happily have stayed longer – I took some of the most striking pictures I’ve ever taken there.

Mini Hollywood itself was suitably convincing, especially with the barren cliffs behind, although closer to, you noticed Pepsi vending machines on each porch – not exactly what you’d expect.

Mini Hollywood

Mini Hollywood, now called El Oasys Parque.

Mini Hollywood was – and still is – home to a rather sorry zoo, with bedraggled animals sitting in cages in the heat. I visited in April, a decent enough time of year to go to a desert, and even I felt scorched when the sun came out.

I didn’t get to Fort Bravo while I was there, although I got very close while walking through the desert – it’s down a very long dirt track from the main road. Fort Bravo boasts a western town and a Mexican town, as well as an elaborate saloon. It’s open to the public and stages shoot-outs and horse rides for visitors.

Mini Hollywood

Some of Sergio Leone’s Dollars movies were shot at Mini Hollywood.

The third wild west park in Tabernas is the Western Leone set, which may still be open to visitors, though information on this is pretty scarce.

Tabernas desert

Tabernas desert.

A visit to Spain’s wild west is well recommended, though you’ll probably need a car (when I went, I took a local bus and had to ask to be left off outside Mini Hollywood). There are signs the Almeria tourist board is waking up to the area’s potential, having published a Spanish-language guide (PDF) to Tabernas’s film history, with some fairly detailed instructions on where to find the locations in Indiana Jones and the Dollars movies.

Tabernas desert

Tabernas desert, also the setting for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

(**By the way, this is not the first time Doctor Who has filmed in Spain: the 1985 serial The Two Doctors starring Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton was shot in a very hot-looking Seville, a trip for which the budget was apparently so small, the cast had to pay their own expenses. And the year before, they shot Planet of Fire in Lanzarote, where the volcanic landscape played a very convincing alien plant. End of geek facts.**)

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London Spanish Film Festival returns with 8th edition

London Spanish Film Festival 2012

London Spanish Film Festival 2012 runs 28 September – 10 October. Image: LSFF

The London Spanish Film Festival is back, with its eight edition running from 28 September to 10 October 2012.

The programme is packed with premieres, thrillers, comedies, documentaries and shorts, as well as Q&As with actors and directors. There will be a focus on Catalan and Basque films, a small selection of Pedro Almodovar movies, and a ‘classic from the archives’: a rarity from the 60s, Un, Dos, Tres Al Escondite Ingles.

One highlight is sure to be El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a behind-the-secenes look at the world-famous, now closed, Barcelona restaurant, with a specially recorded intro by Ferran Adria. There’s also a season of films and a Q&A with prolific Spanish actor Luis Tosar (Los Lunes Al Sol).

Venues involved in the festival, as ever, are Cine Lumiere, Instituto Cervantes and International House.

Read up on last year’s festival with an interview with director Joanna Granero Sanchez.

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London’s first Argentine Film Festival hits The Ritzy on 20 April

London Argentine Film Festival 2012

London Argentine Film Festival 2012 will be showing Caprichosos de San Telmo. Image: LAFF

Film lovers — another date for your diary.

London’s first Argentine Film Festival runs at The Ritzy cinema in Brixton from 20-22 April. There will be eight award-winning films on display, plus four shorts from Argentina’s little-known (well, little-known over here, certainly) silent era.

The highlight film is likely to be Chinese Take Away (Un cuento chino) starring Ricardo Darin (The Secret In Their Eyes).

“All of the films have received international recognition and awards, but they also tell universal stories that any Londoner can relate to, be they English or Spanish-speakers,” says Sofia Serbin de Skalon, the Festival’s director and founder.

Perhaps capitalising on the success of The Artist, the four shorts in the programme date from the 1920s and offer “a captivating snapshot of Argentine life at the beginning of the 20th century”.

“We are truly delighted to host London’s first Argentine Film Festival,” says Clare Binns of Picturehouse Cinemas. “Argentina is producing some fantastic films, and the Ritzy, with its long-standing history of alternative programming and its community spirit, is the perfect venue for this festival.”

I’ll definitely try and get along to some of these – but what a shame it coincides exactly with the London Spanish Film Festival Spring Weekend in South Ken. London’s big enough to host all these different festivals – but a little co-ordination wouldn’t go amiss!

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London Spanish Film Festival: Spring Weekend 2012

London Spanish Film Festival Spring Weekend 2012

London Spanish Film Festival Spring Weekend 2012 will be showing La Chispa de la Vida. Image: LSFF

London’s annual Spanish film festival is back with its second Spring weekender.

The main festival takes place in September (it’s the 8th edition this year), but if you can’t wait that long, they’ve just announced the programme for this year’s taster event.

The 2nd Spring Weekend takes place 20-22 April at Cine Lumiere in South Kensington. There are seven recent films on offer, plus an event featuring Spanish director Carlos Saura.

From the website:

We once again bring to London audiences a Spring Weekend packed with recent Spanish productions, including Alex de la Iglesia’s latest film La chispa de la vida, the winner of the Goya Award for Best Animation Arrugas, the timely and poignant Cinco metros cuadrados, and a preview screening of Dominik Moll’s The Monk featuring a Franco-Spanish cast. David Trueba will visit us to present Madrid, 1987 and filmmaker Alberto Morais will talk to us about his film Las olas.

The festival programme can be found here. The festival director is Joana Granero Sanchez, who spoke to Vida London last year.

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Women_Mujeres Film Festival kicks off 8 March

W_M film festival poster

The Women_Mujeres film festival starts on 8 March. Image: W_M/Zoe López

There’s a new Spanish film festival on the block: the Women_Mujeres Festival explores the situation of women in Spain since the Franco era.

The inaugural festival kicks off on Thursday 8 March (International Women’s Day) and runs until 11 March. The venues are the Roxy on Borough High Street and Blackall Studios in Shoreditch.

Each Spanish film will be accompanied by a short film from the UK and a Q&A session with the people involved. I caught up with the festival’s director Lydia Freixes to find out more:

How did you come up with the idea for the festival?

I founded Women_Mujeres Spanish Film Festival last November. Since then, I have been developing the idea and giving the project all the necessary to become not only real, but interesting and the unique kind of event that people want to be part of it.

How did you choose the films in the programme?

I picked them as they are recent and allowed me and the collaborators who will participate to talk about the different situations of women in Spain 35 years after the end of Franco’s dictatorship.

All these seven movies will show to the audience that there is still a lot of stuff to get done in the parity field in Spain. The point of view changes in each film. From Thursday the 8th to Saturday the 10th, movies chosen are all made in a realistic way. On Sunday Closing Night, we will have the opportunity to enjoy two different, excellent art house visual movies: Woman Without Piano (Mujer sin Piano) and Three days with the family (Tres dies amb la família), the only one in Catalan with English subtitles.

Tres dias amb la familia

Tres dias amb la familia is showing at the W_M Festival. Image: Escandalo Films

Why did you decide to pair the films with shorts from the UK?

Last January I had the opportunity to collaborate with the London Short Film Festival. I watched some astounding feminine shorts and with the producer of W_M, Alberto Bañares, we thought that linking the situation of Spanish women with the rest of the world, especially with Britain, would be a good idea to make the Festival richer.

What are the highlights of the festival for you?

I look forward to enjoying all the sessions! Because all of them are being matched to their most convenient cine forum and Q&A to achieve not only a single screening but a whole inspirational cinematic and social experience to remember. However, maybe the Closing Night on 11th March would be our “main course”, as both movies on the programme haven’t been released in UK.

What is your background?

I used to live in Barcelona but I moved to London recently. The rich life of arts & culture has drawn me back to London a number of times and has finally resulted in my decision to emigrate to London and explore its cinematic opportunities.

I am trilingual in Spanish, Catalan and French with a background in public relations and marketing. I also have a postgraduate in communication and have worked a number of years as a freelance audiovisual producer.

In my last job I managed an art house cinema in Barcelona for a year and a half where I had the opportunity to create festivals such as Casa Asia Film Week (CAFW June 2011) and collaborate with the Drac Màgic International Women Filmmakers Festival.

For more about the W_M Festival, see the group’s website. The full programme can be found here, with information on the venues here.

Follow @WomenMujeres on Twitter and get updates on the W_M Facebook page.

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The Skin I Live In: Art, Posters and DVD

The Skin I Live In poster

The Skin I Live In poster by David Peasland.

Check out these fine graphical poster designs of Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live (La Piel Que Habito).

They’re the work of designer David Peasland, of Soho-based Hicksville Design. Peasland is specialist designer of DVD, CD and book artwork; he’s also an Almodovar fan, and these posters are personal project of his.

Reimagined takes on movie posters seem to be all the rage at the minute: Peasland’s work on The Skin I Live In reminds me of that by Arkansas-based artist Matt Owen, who specialises in minimalist film posters.

The Skin I Live In poster

The Skin I Live In poster by David Peasland.

For my money, these posters do a pretty good job of capturing the flavour of The Skin I Live In, perhaps Almodovar’s most horror-inspired (and horrific) film so far.

Antonio Banderas is suitably chiselled and weathered as the sinister surgeon Dr Robert Ledgard, while Elena Anaya plays Vera, his guinea pig/patient/prisoner. It’s not the easiest film to watch, and lacks the subtlety and strong female leads of his more recent films, but it has a killer twist and some stomach-churningly memorable scenes. The DVD is out now.

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