Iberian-America in Valladolid By Isaac León Frías

in 50th Valladolid International Film Festival

by Isaac León Frías

With the exception of Chile’s In Bed (En la cama), which won the Golden Spike of the 50th SEMINCI, the selection of films from the Iberian-American region was not a good one. Of course, some years the quality of the production is better than others but everything seems to indicate that this past year hasn’t exactly been the best for the Spanish-speaking countries.

To begin with, the Spanish representatives in the Official Section were less than satisfactory: neither Santiago Tavernier’s Vida en color, Daniel Cebrián’s Segundo asalto nor the Argentinean co-production Elsa y Fred, by Marcos Carnevale, were sufficiently creative to be worthy of a festival competition. The craft, the enjoyable stories and the actors’ charisma are not enough to give a film the merit to take part in a confrontation that supposes a higher creative demand.

Out of competition, Carlos Saura’s Iberia offers more of the same from the filmmaker who has focused on Spanish music in his films these past years without proposing anything new. There was nothing relevant either among the other Spanish films we could see in the parallel sections: Montxo Armendáriz’s Obaba, Mariano Barroso’s Ants in The Mouth (Hormigas en la boca) and Roberto Santiago’s El penalti más largo del mundo were very disappointing. Only Alex de la Iglesia’s Ferpect Crime (Crimen ferpecto) was spared from the wreck. It is less freaky and grotesque than his other comedies, but it is quite effective in its revolting sense of humour.

Argentina didn’t allow for a favourable conclusion either, since Julia Solomonoff’s Sisters (Hermanas), was yet another look at the topics of exile and the traumas caused by the last military dictatorship in this South American country, and it is limited by a treatment that is much too soft.

The last remaining film was a surprise considering the past SEMINCI, though in my opinion the Golden Spike was perhaps an excessive award, and it deserved a more reasonable Silver Spike. In Bed makes a choice to concentrate on space and time, and it succeeds in the challenge. A couple of strangers in a motel room are observed by a camera in constant movement that limits them to the narrow visual field of the bed. Two very proficient performances and a difficult bond established from the passionate opening sex scene are the noteworthy merits. The dialogues, however, are built in a way that is sometimes too self-conscious, as if everything had to be said in this confrontation of two people facing imminent change (he is about to leave the country, whereas she is getting married), and this affects a result that could have been more satisfying. Nevertheless, it is still the most valuable film in the very arid panorama of Iberian-American fiction in this latest edition of the SEMINCI.