Edinburgh International Film Festival to celebrate Spanish cinema

EIFF say ‘¡Viva España!’ with a retrospective titled Once Upon a Time in Spain, dedicated to Spanish cinema past and present

Article by Jamie Dunn | 17 Dec 2018
  • The Skin I Live In

Each year Edinburgh International Film Festival takes the temperature of the cinema of a different country; Canada, Poland and Finland have been among the nations whose filmmaking has been showcased at recent editions. This year’s country of focus will be Spain, but as well as giving a snapshot of contemporary Spanish cinema, the EIFF strand – titled Once Upon a Time in Spain – will also include three retrospectives exploring the country’s recent film history, including a look at the career of Edinburgh-based Spanish filmmaker Icíar Bollaín.

“Revolving around a complete retrospective of the brilliant Icíar Bollaín’s directorial feature work, this celebration of modern Spanish cinema also features a dazzling selection of recent Spanish award winners and film festival favourites, and a thrilling late-night strand showcasing some of the finest cult cinema Spain has ever produced,” says Niall Fulton, curator of the Spanish retrospective programme.

Icíar Bollaín

Bollaín's films, such as the Bolivia-set drama Even the Rain and Middle East conflict parable The Lemon Tree, are concerned with social issues. Beginning with the Madrid-born director’s 1995 debut Hi, Are You Alone?, the full retrospective will also include Another World (1999), Kathmandu Lullaby (2011) and documentary In a Foreign Land (2014), which focuses on Spanish immigrants living in Edinburgh.

Gems of Modern Spanish Cinema

The retrospective will also showcase some of the finest Spanish films of recent times, including Álex de la Iglesia’s outrageous black comedy The Last Circus (2010), Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez’s post-apocalyptic animation Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015), Pedro Almodóvar’s perverse melodrama The Skin I Live In (2011) and a brace of films from Pablo Berger: wild comedy Abracadabra (2017) and silent black-and-white fairytale Snow White (2012), which recasts the eponymous princess as a matador.

Cult Spanish Cinema

We’d describe all of the above films as dark movies with a somewhat cult appeal, but EIFF have something even darker and more cultish in mind with their third retrospective, titled Once Upon a Time in Spain after Dark: A Retrospective Selection of Cult Spanish Cinema. In this strand you’ll find Nacho Vigalondo’s mind-bending sci-fi Timecrimes (2007), Iván Zulueta’s extraordinary and deeply creepy Arrebato (1980) and Alejandro Amenábar's thriller Thesis – the latter two films also working as meta-commentaries on the hypnotic power of cinema.

This trio of retrospectives will compliment a separate programme of contemporary Spanish cinema, and the festival will host a number of industry events designed to facilitate networking between UK and Spanish filmmakers. If you’d like to get a flavour of what to expect from Once Upon a Time in Spain, there’s a screening of Álex de la Iglesia’s The Day of the Beast (1995) coming up at Filmhouse on 21 December as part of the cinema's Dark Xmas strand.

EIFF 2019 takes place 19-30 Jun; the full EIFF programme will be announced 29 May