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Movie Titles

Planta 4a
La hora de los valientes, 1998
Casi Casi, 2006
El Abuelo (The Grandfather), 1999
Nadie conoce a nadie (Nobody Knows Anybody), 1999
La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon), 2008
Belle Epoque, 1992
Los años bárbaros (Stolen Years), 1998
El Lobo, 2004
La luz prodigiosa, 2003
Hacia la oscuridad/Toward Darkness, 2007

Flores de otro mundo
Bandidas, 2006
Mar Adentro
El Laberinto del Fauno
Volver
Volver a Empezar
Don Quijote Cabalga de Nuevo
Cosas que Dejé en la Habana (Things I Left in Havana)
En el Pais de No Pasa Nada (In the Country Where Nothing Happens)
El Peñón de las Animas (The Rock of the Souls)
Fresas y Chocolate (Strawberries and Chocolate)
Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)
Tacones Lejanos (High Heels)
Valentin
Y tu mamá también (And Your Mom, too)
Habla con Ella (Talk to Her)
Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios
La Generala (The General), 1970

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Movie Reviews

Planta 4a
Run time: 100 minutes
Director: Antonio Mercero
Rating:  NR, contains scenes with the strong language of teenage goys, and one scene of suggestive sexuality
Language: Spanish; without subtitles
Cast: Juan José Ballesta, Luis Ángel Priego, Gorka Moreno, Alejandro Zafra, Marco Martinez
Awards: Nominated for a Goya in 2004 for Best Film; winner of various other awards 

English version below 

plantaHay varias sociedades y culturas en nuestro mundo, y es raro asignar estos conceptos al hospital, pero éste es exactamente lo que ocurre en Planta 4ª, esta película maravillosa, seria, y chistosa.  La gente que puebla la película son jóvenes de unos quince años que principalmente sufren del cáncer, y los empleados del hospital que los rodean.  Los jóvenes pasan sus días en varios tratamientos y pruebas, haciendo las cosas que los jóvenes saludables hacen, pero también forman un grupo que se apoyan los unos a los otros por medio del cariño, los deportes, y el humor.  Pasan las tardes jugando al baloncesto en el patio, las noches en carreras por los corredores del hospital en sus sillas de ruedas.  Llaman a las enfermeras a la medianoche para pedir una pizza.  Hay momentos bastante serios también cuando hablan de la primera cirugía, de cuando uno de ellos se mejora lo suficiente para volver a casa con su familia.  La amistad entre uno de los jóvenes y una chica que está internada en el piso psiquiátrico es particularmente conmovedora.   

Con un asunto tan difícil como el cáncer, yo tenía mucho miedo de ver esta película, pero la verdad es que la película hace más fácil entender el sufrimiento, las dudas, las ansiedades, los temores, y las felicidades por lo que pasa a un paciente del cáncer cada día.  La presentación por parte del escritor Albert Espinosa, del director Antonio Mercero, y de todos los actores comparte una sensitividad sensible y abre una ventana a una cultura triste y humorosa a la vez.  El éxito de esta película está debido a la lengua del humor. 

Con la excepción de una escena de sugerencia sexual, y el uso apropiado de palabras fuertes, esta película es apropiada para cualquier edad, aunque creo que los niños no la entiendan bien.  La recomiendo sin reservaciones. 

English version 

A marvelous, serious, and funny film, Planta 4ª takes place in a hospital cancer ward and aptly represents the culture and societies that co-exist there amid the sadness, anxiety, and happiness inherent in such a locale.  The people who live so vibrantly in the film are primarily a group of 15-year-olds and the medical teams that work with them.  We see these young people going through their daily routines of various therapies, endless tests, and idle hours filled with the things healthy teenagers do.  A mutually supportive group forms that is filled with caring, sports, and humor.  They spend their afternoons playing basketball in the patio, nights racing their wheel chairs through the hallways of the hospital, ordering pizza from the nurses, and talking.  There are serious moments as well in which we share their fears over surgery, their melancholic joy when one of them improves enough to go home to be with family.  The friendship that develops between one of the cancer patients and a girl on the psychiatric ward is especially moving. 

I must admit that I was hesitant to see this movie when the opportunity was first offered to me, because cancer is such a difficult topic to deal with artistically. The truth is that this movie makes it easy to understand the suffering, doubts, anxieties, fears, and joys cancer patients experience each and every day.  This presentation by the writer Albert Espinosa, the director Antonio Mercero, and the cast of characters shares a tangible sensitivity and opens a window on a sad culture that can be filled with humor.  The success of this film is due to the language of humor. 

With the exception of one sexually suggestive scene, and the appropriate use of strong language, this movie is appropriate for all ages, although I doubt that younger children will understand it very well.  I recommend it without reservation. 
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Film Review Editor

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La hora de los valientes, 1998

Director: Antonio Mercero
Language: Spanish
Country: Spain
Run Time: 120 minutes
Actors: Gabino Diego, Leonor Watling, Adriana Ozores
Awards: Goyas: 6 nominations, 1 winner (Best Supporting Catres)
Not rated


la horaSpanish Version

Durante la Guerra Civil en España, evacuaron el Museo del Prado, sacando todas las obras de arte para ponerlas en un lugar más seguro. Uno de los celadores encuentra un cuadro olvidado de Goya y lo esconde en su casa para preservarlo. Durante los siguientes días las fuerzas de Franco entran la capital, los panfletos de propaganda caen del cielo, y el celador se casa con su novia. La vida continua mientras la familia trata de proteger el cuadro. Al fin de la película el celador describe a su novia en una memorable escena de pantomima otra obra de Goya y su ubicación en el museo. Se puede ver varias obras famosas que residen en El Prado, la vida diaria de una familia en aquel entonces, y también se puede aprender una parte de la Guerra Civil poco conocida: el papel del arte y la propaganda. Es una bella película sin profanidad, sexo, y violencia, pero bien fuerte en las actitudes políticas de la época.

English Version

During the Spanish Civil War, the Prado Museum was emptied of all of its artworks in an attempt to move them to a more secure location. One of the security guards finds a painting by Goya that was left behind and he hides it at home to protect it from the ravages of war. During the ensuing days, Franco’s troops enter the capital, propaganda pamphlets fall from the sky, and the guard marries his girlfriend. Life continues while the guard and his family try to protect the painting. At the end of the movie, the guard describes to his new wife in a memorable pantomime another of Goya’s paintings and its placement in the museum. One can see many of the Prado’s famous works of art, the daily life of a family living in Madrid during the war. One can also learn about a little-known piece of the Spanish Civil War: the role of art and propaganda. This is a beautiful film, without profanity, sex or violence, but very strong in political attitudes of the era.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

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Casi Casi

Co-Writers/Directors: Jaime Vallés and Tony Vallés
Year: 2006
Run Time: 93 mins
Language: Spanish
Country: Puerto Rico (USA)
Starring: Marian Pabón, Mario Pabón, Irene Lucio
Executive Producer: Victoria Racimo
Rating: PG

Casi CasiUbicada en un colegio puertorriqueño, Casi Casi es la historia de Emilio y su gran plan para ganar la atención romántica de la muchacha más popular de la escuela.  Él y sus amigos deciden que la mejor manera de llevar a cabo el plan es ponerse como candidato para la Presidencia del Consejo Estudiantil de la escuela.  Pero, después de anunciar sus intenciones, descubre que ella también es candidata para el mismo puesto.  Desde aquí en adelante ocurre una serie de eventos a la vez chistosos y atrevidos.  Se encuentran con dificultades y el plan podría llevarles a un fin desastroso.  Poblada por toda la gente estereotípica de un colegio (una directora tiránica, un profesor poco atento, profesores que enseñan bien, y alumnos que son jóvenes regulares, la acción tuerce y dobla hacia el fin.

El intento de los autores/directores fue el de crear una película para los jóvenes puertorriqueños, ubicada en Puerto Rico.  En las palabras de los escritores/directores, “…Casi Casi es el modelo de las películas que nos hubiera gustado ver cuando nos criamos en Puerto Rico: una aventura/comedia romántica con mucha energía y corazón.”  Con la excepción de tres actores, el elenco incluye jóvenes actores por primera vez con talento increíble.  http://www.casicasi.com/Esp-Sobre.html

English version

Set in a high school in Puerto Rico, Casi Casi is the story of Emilio and his grand plan to win the romantic attention of the most popular girl in the school.  He and his friends decide that the best way to do this is to run for the office of President of the Student Council.  Once he announces his intentions, he finds that she, too, is running for the same office.  From there ensues a string of funny and daring incidents.  Running into difficulties, the plan to win could spell disaster for Emilio and his friends.  Populated with all of the stereotypical characters in a school, from a tyrannical principal, teachers who are worn out and teachers who do their best to students who are just normal kids, the action twists and turns towards the finale. 

The intention of the author/directors was to create a film for Puerto Rican teens set in Puerto Rico.  In the words of the writers/directors, “…Casi Casi is the kind of film we would have liked to have seen when we were growing up: an upbeat, energetic, romantic caper-comedy full of heart.” With the exception of three actors, the entire cast is made up of amazingly talented first-time actors.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

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El Abuelo (The Grandfather), 1999

AbueloDirector: Jose Luis Garci
Run Time: 146 minutes
Language: Spanish
Academy Award nominee in 1999 for the Best Foreign Language Film
Available from amazon.com and netflix 

An elderly Spanish man is living in California when he learns of the death of his son in Spain. He returns to his native land and meets his son’s two daughters. He discovers, however, that one of the daughters is not really his son’s and he needs to find out which one. It is a heart-warming story.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor 

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Nadie conoce a nadie (Nobody Knows Anybody), 1999

Director: Mateo Gil
Run time: 110 mins
Rated R for sexuality, violence, language
Winner: 1999 Goya for Best Special Effects


English version below

NadieUbicado en Sevilla durante la Semana Santa, esta película de acción y misterio de quién hace qué nos lleva por una semana desesperada de buscar la persona responsable por una serie de asesinatos que pueden acabar con la muerte de mucha gente en las anchas calles atestadas de Sevilla. El entorno de la Semana Santa en Sevilla provee el fondo para juegos de láser electrónicos y vivos, que pasa por los monumentos y sitios famosos de la ciudad, el periodismo y la investigación académica, y la psicología del grupo. El personaje principal (Eduardo Noriega) es un escritor frustrado quien gana la vida creando crucigramas para el periódico local; también comparte su piso con un nuevo amigo (Jordi Mollà). Poco a poco se ve mezclado en un complot a través de mensajes en su contestador telefónico. Estos mensajes le dicen que debe incluir palabras específicas en la crucigrama para el Domingo de Resurrección. Por pasos progresivos y afinados, la tensión sube a una búsqueda desesperada por la procesión final hasta una conclusión dramática.
- Recomendado por Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Editor

English version

Set in Seville during Easter Week, this action mystery of who’s who takes the viewer through a week of desperate searching for the perpetrator of unique murders that may culminate in the deaths of the many people crowding Seville’s narrow streets. The milieu of Holy Week in Seville is the backdrop for computerized and live laser tag games, touring many of the famous landmarks of Seville, journalism and research, and group psychology. The main character (played by Eduardo Noriega) is a frustrated writer making his living as the crossword expert for the local newspaper, and sharing his apartment with a newfound friend (played by Jordi Mollà). He is drawn into the plot through a message on his answering machine that tells him to include particular words in his Easter Sunday crossword puzzle. In cadenced, finely tuned steps, the tension rises to a desperate search through the final Holy Week procession and a dramatic conclusion.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Editor

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La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon), 2008
Under the MoonDirector: Patricia Riggen
Run time:  106 minutes
Language: Spanish (with subtitles in English)
Country: Mexico
Availabilty: amazon.com for purchase; netflix for rental

This is a very moving story about a boy who is waiting in Mexico to be called to the US by his single mother who has gone there to work and establish a legal residence. When his grandmother dies, however, he decides to go to LA to find his mother on his own. Needless to say, he has many adventures, some life-threatening.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Belle Epoque, 1992
Run time: 109 minutes
Rating: NR
Producer, Director: Fernando Trueba
Language: Spanish w/subtitles in English, Spanish, French
Awards: Nine Goyas in 1993: Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Lead Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Makeup; Oscar in 1993: Best Foreign Language Film

English review below

Belle EpoqueDe una manera ligera y humoristica, Belle Epoque burla de las actitudes de la época, incluyendo la situación poltica de la República, el anti-clericalismo, la creciente libertad femenina, y las abiertas relaciones extramaritales. En el año 1931, el joven Fernando, semanario que fue reclutado, se desierta del ejército y vagamente empieza a buscar algo que tiene sentido en la vida. Acercándose a un pueblo y deseando algún lugar donde dormir, se hace amigo de un artista de libres pensamientos. El artista se siente solo y el joven ve una oportunidad magnífica cuando las hijas vienen a visitar. Esta visita le trae un dilema delicioso a Fernando: ¿Con cuál de las hijas se va a casar? Cada una es distinta y tiene sus propios atributos. Una por una, todas le seducen; y cada vez Fernando está completamente convencido de que aquélla es la perfecta y verdadera amor de su vida…hasta que la próxima llega. Todos los estereotipos aparecen en la película: el cura librepensador, el maestro gilipollas, la madre dominante, el artista anarquista, las hijas bellas y desesperadas, la Guardia Civil bufón, y sobre todo el joven sin rumbo e inocente al parecer quien ha averiguado rápidamente como introducirse en esta familia loca y maravillosa. Belle Epoque une a muchos de nuestros favoritos actores una vez más en esta película ligera y chistosa. Vemos a Fernando Fernán Gómez, Chus Lampreave, Gabino Diego, Penélope Cruz, y Ariadna Gil en un retozo encantador en la España antes de la Guerra Civil. No hay violencia y se presentan la mayoría de las escenas sexuales indirectamente. Muy divertida, aún si el español no es su lengua.
-Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

English
In a light and humorous manner, Belle Epoque spoofs the attitudes of the day, including the political situation of the Republic, anti-clericalism, growing freedom for women, and open extramarital relationships. In 1931, young Fernando, a seminarian who was drafted, deserts the army and starts out on a wandering search for something more meaningful to do with his life. Happening upon a village and needing a place to stay, he befriends a freethinking artist. The artist is lonely, and the young man sees an opportunity when the man’s four daughters come to visit. Their visit results in a delicious dilemma for poor Fernando: which daughter will he marry? Each is different and each has her own attributes. All of them seduce him at one point or another during the film; each time he is convinced that he has found the true love of his life, only to move on to the next daughter. All the stereotypes are there: the liberal thinking priest, the dorky teacher, the domineering mother, the anarchist artist, the beautiful innocent or desperate daughters, the buffoon-like Guardia Civil, and above all the aimless and seemingly innocent young man who has quickly figured out how to wiggle his way into this crazy, wonderful family. Belle Epoque unites many of our favorite Spanish cast members once again in this light, fun movie. We see Fernando Fernán Gómez, Chus Lampreave, Gabino Diego, Penélope Cruz, and Ariadna Gil in a delightful romp in pre-Civil War Spain. There is no violence and most of the sexual scenes are treated with innuendo rather than explicitly. Lots of fun, even if Spanish is not your language.

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Los años bárbaros (Stolen Years), 1998
Director: Fernando Colomo
Run Time:120 minutes
Rating: NR
Cast: Jordi Molla, Ernesto Alterio, Hedy Burress, Allison Smith
Language: Spanish with English subtitles

English review below

En el año 1947, el escribir graffiti anti-gubernamental en las paredes de edificios públicos en Madrid resulta en una sentencia de 8 años de trabajos forzados para dos estudiantes de filosofía (Jordi Mollà y Ernesto Alterio). La sentencia tiene lugar en el sitio de la construcción del monumento El Valle de los Caídos. Se planea un escape y la aventura continúa con la ayuda de dos jóvenes norteamericanas (una canadiense y una estadounidense). Se suavizan las insinuaciones lúgubres, situadas in los tribunales, el sitio de construcción, y en el camino, con una presentación humorística. El escape tiene éxito cuando las chicas aparecen con un descapotable rojo. Los cuatro jóvenes pasan por el paisaje espectacular del norte de España, con una parada en Barcelona. Rumbo a la frontera francesa, vemos que cada persona está en busca de su libertad personal, y que vínculos fuertes forman durante el viaje. Basada en la historia verdadera de la detención y el escape de los estudiantes universitarios, el encuentro con las chicas, y el dramático resultado final en la frontera con Francia, esta película es divertida y algo que se hace pensar. Aunque está principalmente en español, hay escenas en que se habla inglés y/o francés.

English
In 1947, writing anti-government graffiti on a building in Madrid results in 8-year sentences to hard labor working on the construction of El Valle de los Caídos for two philosophy students (Jordi Molla and Ernesto Alterio). An escape is planned and the adventure continues. Dark political innuendos, set in courtrooms, the construction site, and on the road are softened by a comedic approach. The escape attempt is affected with the help of two North American girls in a bright red convertible. Driving through the spectacular landscape of northern Spain, with a stop in Barcelona, this is the story of each individual’s search for freedom and the bonding that takes place among the four. Based on the true story of the arrest and escape of the students, their encounter with the two girls and the eventual drama at the French border, this movie is both funny and thought provoking. Principally in Spanish, there are several scenes in which French and/or English are also spoken.
-Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

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El Lobo, 2004
Director: Miguel Cortois
Language: Spanish
Run time: 119 or 134 minutes
Cast: Eduardo Noriega, José Coronado Won 2 Goyas with 7 nominations
Availability: from amazon.com in an abbreviated form and from elcorteingles.com in full-length original form with English or Spanish subtitles
Warning: Extreme violence, language, and sexually explicit scenes make this movie inappropriate for children.

English review below

El LoboEsta película de intriga, ambientado en los primeros años de los 70 en España, se presenta la historia verdadera de un topo (espía) infiltrado en la ETA por las fuerzas policíacas. Un obrador de construcción, Txema tiene unos amigos que son miembros de la ETA. Cuando un policía le propone que se ponga parte del grupo, Txema no puede negar el dinero que le ofrece, y empieza una vida de secretos. Su vida doble causa la disolución del matrimonio, la muerte de muchos de sus amigos, y por fin la cirugía plástica y una nueva identidad. Siga “Lobo” mientras trabaja y sube por la cadena de mando en la ETA y acaba por posibilitar la detención de los líderes del grupo terrorista vasco. La película presenta un foco balanceado en la lucha por la ETA para obtener la independencia vasca de España, y su deseo de guardar viva la lengua y cultura durante los últimos años del régimen franquista. Mucha violencia, lenguaje, y explícitas escenas sexuales hace que esta película no es para niños.

English

Set in the early 1970’s in Spain, this thriller presents the true story of a mole planted inside the ETA by the police force. A construction worker, Txema falls in with friends who are part of ETA, the Basque Separatist Movement. When approached by a police detective, he cannot turn down the money he his offered. His double life leads to the dissolution of his marriage, the death of many of his friends, and finally plastic surgery and a new identity. Follow “Wolf” as he works his way up the chain of command within ETA and finally enables the rounding up of the leaders of the Basque terrorist group. The movie has a balanced focus on the struggle of the ETA to obtain independence from Spain for the Basque Provinces, and their desire to keep the Basque language and culture alive during the waning years of the Franco regime.
- Recommended by Sheila W. Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor.

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La luz prodigiosa (2003) España

Director: Miguel Hermoso

Cast: Alfredo Landa, Nino Manfredi and Kiti Manver

Run Time: 108 minutes

Language: Spanish

Rating: NR but does not contain offensive language or content

La luz prodigiosaJoaquín, un joven pastor andaluz da con un hombre gravemente herido que está tumbado en una zanja.  Le lleva a su chozo y le cuida para sanarle, pero tiene que salir para servir su turno en el ejército.  Porque el hombre no puede cuidarse de si mismo, el joven le lleva a un convento donde el hombre pasa el resto de su vida.   Después de 30 años el joven, regresa a Granada y mientras está allí, busca al hombre, y lo encuentra confundido y pobre.  La película está llena de escenas chistosas, tristes, nostálgicas, y vistazos de la vida diaria en Granada.

Ahora entra el misterio.  ¿Quién era ese hombre?  ¿Por qué quería fusilarle alguien?  Una película sensible que se trata de la manera en se desarrolla la relación entre Joaquín, ya jubilado, y el hombre, esta película es para todos que saben, o quieren saber, de la España desde la Guerra Civil hasta ahora.  Vistas maravillosas de la Granada de hoy son el fondo para la búsqueda de Joaquín y la respuesta sorprendente de quién era ese hombre.  Nominado por 4 Goyas.  En español.

- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

Joaquín, a young Andalusian shepherd, finds a severely wounded man lying in a gulley.  While nursing him back to health, the youth is called up for military service so he turns the injured man over to the local convent.  Thirty years later the youth, now a retiree, returns to Granada and locates the man.  The film is full of funny, sad, nostalgic scenes, and glimpses of daily activities in Granada.

Then the mystery arises.  Who was this man?  Why did somebody try to kill him?   A beautifully sensitive film of how the relationship between these two men grows, this is a film for anybody who knows or wishes to know about Spain from the time of the Civil War to the present.  Wonderful shots of Granada today provide the backdrop for the search and the stunning answer to the man’s identity.  Nominated for 4 Goyas. 
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey,  Spanish Language Film Review Editor

 

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Hacia la oscuridad/Toward Darkness, 2007
Director: José Antonio Negret
Actors: America Ferrara, Tony Plana, David Stucliffe, Roberto Urbina
Tribeca Film Festival
English version below

hacia_oscuridadMientras asistía a ACTFL en San Antonio el noviembre pasado, miré una película que nunca olvidaré: Hacia la oscuridad. La semilla de la película empezó con las experiencias verdaderas del escritor/director José Antonio Negret; experiencias de su niñez en Colombia cuando varios miembros de su familia fueron secuestrados. Eso pasó no solamente a su familia sino también a muchas otras familias colombianas. Negret basó una interpretación ficticia en estas experiencias verdaderas para llegar a un cuento con más interés general. Cuando aprendí que ésta era la primera obra de un escritor/director bastante joven, me impresionó aún más el diálogo increíble y creativo, las pistas sutiles e intricadas que están tejidas por todo el guión, la fotografía espectacular, y la ternura con que se trata de un asunto bastante violento. La desesperación de todos los personajes, que están sin piedad y tienen tanta avaricia, y la crueldad y el amor que tienen por la familia se ponen evidentes por lo largo de la película.

El tiempo salta entre el pasado y el presente, dando al público la oportunidad para entender por qué escogieron a José como la víctima, cómo el secuestro ha llegado a ser un negocio bastante viable hoy, y la red compleja y torcida de relaciones entre los secuestradores, las familias y los negocios de los victimas, y el mundo entero. El cuento actual se trata de unos 90 minutos en la vida del secuestrado, y se acerca a la situación de los puntos de vista de la familia, los secuestradores, el equipo de rescate que intenta salvarle, el entrego del rescate, y como se meten los personajes principales en el suceso.

Esta obra ponderosa empezó la vida como proyecto para un curso de película. Se asumió vida y fue entregada al Festival Tribeca como una película de largometraje en 2007, donde se estrenó por primera vez. La presentación en ACTFL era parte del ciclo de eventos planeados antes de un estreno limitado en todos los cines, que tomará lugar los fines de enero. Una distribución más amplia seguirá más tarde en 2008. Presta atención a los anuncios y busca cuando esta película llega a su cine local. ¡Es una verdadera maravilla!
- Recomendado por Sheila Cockey, Editora de películas en español

English version

While at the ACTFL Convention in San Antonio in November, I watched a movie that I will never forget: Hacia la oscuridad. The concept for the film began with the real-life experiences of writer/director José Antonio Negret during his childhood in Columbia when several members of his family were kidnapped. It happened to many families and he used his experiences as a base for writing a fictionalized account that would have broader appeal.

When I learned that this was the first work of a young director, I was even more impressed by the masterful dialog, the incredible cinematography, the subtle and intricate hints that are interwoven throughout the script, the spectacular photography, and the gentleness with which a violent subject is treated. All the desperation of everyone involved, their ruthlessness and their greed, their cruelty and their love for their family become evident as the movie winds towards its end. Time bounces back and forth, affording the viewing audience the opportunity to understand why José was chosen as the victim, how kidnapping has become a business, and the convoluted and complex web of relationships among the kidnappers, the victims’ families and businesses, and the larger world. The actual story line deals with about 90 minutes in the life of the hostage, and looks at the situation from the point of view of the family, the kidnappers, the special ops team that tries to save him, the ransom delivery, and how the major characters become involved in the event. This powerful work began its life as a project for film school. It took on a life of its own and was submitted as a full-length feature film to the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007, where it had its world premiere. The ACTFL showing was part of the pre-release fielding of the film, preparatory to opening in general theaters in January 2008. Based on the success of the general opening, a wider distribution will take place later in the year. Keep your eyes peeled for this film. It’s a real winner!
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Editor

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Flores de otro mundo
Director: Icíar Bollaín
Clasificación: NR (pero tiene violencia doméstica y escenas sexuales)
Reparto: José Sancho, Luis Tosar, Lissete Mejía, Chete Lera, Marilyn Torres, Elena Irueta
108 minutos
Lengua: en español con subtítulos en inglés

English Review Below

Un vistazo distinto al asunto de la migración, Flores de otro mundo se trata de una aldea agrícola poblado por solteros que buscan pareja. Organizan fiestas e invitan a mujeres que están buscando esposos. Cuando el autobús llega, con mujeres llenas de esperanzas y sueños de una vida mejor, todo el pueblo les espera con anticipación. Les da la bienvenida con un desfile, música, comida, y un baile.

Hay cuatro hilos que seguimos en la película por varios personajes: la soledad, el escape, la inmigración ilegal, la amistad. El pueblo es un pueblo muriéndose poco a poco porque no hay nada que atrae a los jóvenes. Está poblado por hombres solteros que trabajan día tras día y añoran la compañía de una mujer y sienten su soledad. La película enfoca en tres de estos hombres y las mujeres que escogen.

La migración que vemos en esta película es de otros países, otras culturas, y otros sitios en el mismo país. Cada mujer es una flor preciosa, llena de color, atractiva, sensible, e inteligente, que viene de otro mundo (el Caribe, la ciudad, una profesión) para vivir en una aldea rural. El choque de culturas y como cada quien maneja este choque es el tema verdadera de esta película. Presentada con humor, con sutileza, y con cariño por una lente real y verdadero, Flores de otro mundo es una manera cómoda de enfrentarse con unos de los asuntos importantes de hoy.
- Recomendado por Sheila Cockey, Comentarista de películas en español.

English

A different look at the subject of migration, Flores de otro mundo deals with a small agrarian village populated by single men who are looking for a mate. They organize fiestas and invite women who are searching for husbands. When the bus arrives, with women full of hopes and dreams of a better life, the entire village eagerly turns out in welcome. This welcome includes a parade, music, a banquet, and a dance.

Four threads are woven together in the film through the lives of the various characters: solitude, escape, illegal immigration, and friendship. The town is dying little by little because there is nothing to keep the young people there. Single men who work day after day and sorely miss the companionship of a woman populate this town. These men acutely feel their solitude. The movie focuses on three of these men and the women they choose. The migration that we see in this movie is from other countries, other cultures, and other places in the same country. Each woman is a precious flower, colorful, attractive, sensitive, and intelligent who comes from another world (the Caribbean, the city, a profession) to live in a rural village. The cultural clashes that ensue, and how each person handles these clashes, are the real theme of this movie. Presented with humor, subtlety, and sensitivity through a truthful lens, Flores de otro mundo is a comfortable way of looking at some of the big issues of the day.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

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Bandidas, 2006
Directors: Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Language: Spanish

Bandidas is a comedy set in the Old Wild West of Mexico and California and stars Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz as two clueless but beautiful bank robbers. In Robin Hood fashion, they steal from American banks and give the money to the poor and starving people of Mexico. Overall, it is cute and funny. I would recommend it for high-schoolers but not any younger due to some mild sexual-references. Any teacher should preview it before deciding to show it.
- Recommended by Mayte Armas, Spanish Teacher, Virginia

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Mar Adentro
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Starring: Javier Bardem, Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas
Spain, 2004; 125 minutes
In Spanish with English subtitles

mar_adentro

Dealing with a controversial topic, Mar adentro, literally takes flight through the opposing viewpoints and the individual struggles of family, friends, and society. Javier Bardem, in the role of Ramón Sampedro, portrays the emotions, needs, desires, hopes, and despair of a middle-aged man paralyzed from the neck down in an accident during his youth who now wishes to die a dignified death. The supporting cast ably, tenderly, and fiercely portrays the variety of reactions to euthanasia and assisted suicide, both on a personal level and on a societal level. Based on the true story, the movie faithfully portrays the warmth of Ramón, the love of his friends and family, and the fierce political battle that swirls around his campaign to have the right to end his own life. Some characters remain firmly planted in their opposition to these measures. Others who support them in the abstract have a harder time once they get to know Ramón and it becomes a personal decision. The opposite also happens, with opposition in the general sense turning to support in the specific instance.

We see a desolate father and brother, a caring sister-in-law, and an accepting nephew, each one dealing with the sorrow of Ramón’s condition in his own way. We watch relationships develop with lawyers and admirers. We laugh and cry with them as they wrestle with their own conscience and with his condition. He has a wonderful sense of humor that helps to ease the both his and others’ pain.

Ramón spends the long hours listening to music, especially classical and opera, reading, and writing poetry. He has devised a means by which he can write using his mouth, with the pen supported by an elaborate mechanism. These pastimes bring a richness to his life that enables him to enjoy the people around him so much more.

Given the subject matter of the movie, it could be an extremely dark and depressing experience, but the director, Alejandro Amenábar, has beautifully scripted and orchestrated everything into a lovely and serene story. Ramón physically does not leave his bed except to appear in court; however, his mind flies out the window of his bedroom, over the mountains, through the valleys, and to the ocean in a lovely lyrical scene without words.

Imagine being an actor who is given a deep and complex role, and is deprived of all movement with the exception of facial expressions and the ability to talk. To lie still in bed and have to convey the gamut of emotions, from anger and self-hate to witty repartee and gentleness with, nothing more than your facial muscles. This is what Javier Bardem has done with masterly effectiveness. Mar adentro is more than deserving of the many awards it has received, including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005 and 14 2005 Goyas.
- Recommended by Spanish Language Film Review Editor, Sheila Cockey

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Volver a empezar
Director: José Luis Garci 1981
Run Time: 87 minutes
Starring: Antonio Fernandis and Encana Paso
Spain

See review in English below

Después de recibir el Premio Nóbel para la Literatura, Antonio Albajara regresa a España. Ha pasado muchos años como profesor en una universidad de los Estados Unidos y escribiendo libros. Al llegar a Guijón, su ciudad natal, pasa tiempo con sus compañeros de sus días de jugador de fútbol para el equipo Real Sporting, y renueva la amistad con una antigua novia. Juntos, ellos visitan lugares hermosos en los alrededores de Guijón. Pasa tiempo con sus antiguos amigos, hablando y mirando varios partidos de fútbol (que proveen buen kilometraje para la clase). Esta película fue el primer de lengua española que ganó el Oscar para la mejor película de no habla inglés, en 1982. No hay mucha acción pero hay humor y nostalgia en esta película dulce. El lenguaje es accesible y fácil de entender.

English
A Nobel Laureate returns to Spain after spending his adult years teaching literature in the United States. Upon his return he renews friendships with his soccer team and an old flame. As their romance rekindles, they re-visit places in and around Guijón that are of incredible beauty. The time he spends with his soccer team Real Sporting, is heartwarming; the scenes of soccer matches will provide good footage for the classroom. This is the first Spanish film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, in 1982. There is not much in the way of fast-paced action, but there is humor and nostalgia in this gentle film. The language is accessible and easy to understand.
- Recommended by Spanish Language Film Review Editor, Sheila Cockey

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volver

Volver
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Johana Cobo
121 minutos
En español con subtítulos en inglés

See Review in English below

Otra vez, Pedro Almodóvar alcanza hasta los límites, pero esta vez lo hace de una manera distinta. Volver es una película impresionante, con una formación de actores de fuerza y profundidad increíbles, un complot que se trata de lo triste y conmovedor, de lo ordinario, de lo chistoso, y música y color para llenar el alma. Una persona que me acompañó me dijo, "Almodóvar ha creado algo extraordinario, creo – un mundo de mujeres que no parece despreciar a los hombres."

El film comienza con escenas de un pueblo en La Mancha, escenas de mujeres viviendo sin la presencia de los hombres en la vida porque se han muerto o salido. El viento silba por el cementerio, entre los rincones, y entra los patios de las casas. Es un lugar aislado.

Una nueva generación de gente vive en los vecindarios de las zonas en los alrededores de Madrid, gente que dejó atrás los pueblos en busca de una mejor vida en la ciudad. Viven en edificios poco imaginativos de muchos pisos, en barrios lúgubres. Luchan para encontrar y mantener un empleo. Detrás de este telón echamos un vistazo de la humanidad: el esposo perezoso, la esposa quien tiene muchos empleos a tiempo parcial (Cruz), y la hija adolescente quien desafiantemente desea una vida más atractiva. Aún más en el fondo vemos a la hermana que sobrevive con su peluquería ilegal en su apartamento. Estas mujeres son supervivientes. Tenazmente viven cada día, esperando despertarse la próxima mañana a una vida un poco menos pesada, con menos tristeza, y un con poco más éxito. Otros personajes incluyen la madre (Maura) y una vecina del pueblo, cada una de ellas solitarias, guardianas de su propio secreto. Ambas tienen una necesidad, pero no saben como pedir ayuda, y temen las consecuencias. Los personajes menores (las amigas de Raimunda, las clientes de Sole, el equipo cinematográfico) añaden una profundidad al reparto y un sentido de realidad al guión. Como me dijo un amigo después de ver Volver, "Todo el mundo necesita amigos tales como las de Raimunda, amigos que no hacen preguntas, amigos que son fieles y compasivos, amigos con quien se puede reírse y llorar."

La cinematografía es simplemente fabulosa. Los colores saltan de la pantalla con una vitalidad increíble. Hay color por todas partes: en los azulejos en las escaleras, en la ropa, en los autos, y en las escenas callejeras. Domina el rojo. En una escena sumamente impresionante, una toalla de papel friega y absorbe la sangre, pero parece más encaje delicado.

Debajo todo flota la música incomparable, música suave y ruidosa. Crea el suspenso, abraza a los dolientes, da refugio a los asustados, y celebra a los amigos y la familia. El tema musical, Volver, es una clásica canción flamenca, balanceada por pedazos de música popular, y música escrita para la película.

Penélope Cruz merece la nominación para Mejor Actriz de SAG y los Oscars. Pero, también el espectador se quedará paralizado por la joven actriz Yohana Cobo. Su escena esperando a su madre a la parada de autobús arranca el corazón. Carmen Maura da una representación emocionante y humorosa. Todo el elenco da un aura de realidad a la gente a los acontecimientos.

Volver es una película que se puede mirar una y otra vez. Es como pelar los pétalos de una rosa, cada capa revelando otra capa incomparable. Provocando pensamientos, chistoso y seria, mirándola es un placer que se lleva bien no importa cuantas veces la vea.

Aviso: aunque esta película tiene una clasificación de R, solo hay sugerencias de encuentros sexuales, y una escena en que solo ve el resultado de la violencia.
- Recomendado por Sheila Cockey, Comentarista y Editora en Español

English

Volver
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Johana Cobo
Run Time: 121 minutes
In Spanish with English subtitles

Pedro Almodóvar does it again, and this time he does it in a different way. Volver is a blockbuster of a film, with a starring line-up of incredible strength and depth, a story line that ranges from the sad and touching to the ordinary to the very funny and music and color to fill the soul. My movie-viewing companion says, "Almodovar has created something extraordinary, I think -- a world of women that doesn't seem to "dis" men."

Scenes of a village in La Mancha open the film, scenes of women living without the men in their lives because the men have died or departed. The wind whips through the cemetery, around the corners, and into the courtyards of their homes.

Madrid’s suburban neighborhoods are home to a new generation of people who have left their villages to seek a better life in the city. They live in unimaginative, multi-level buildings, in dingy neighborhoods. They struggle to find and keep a job. Behind this scrim we get a glimpse of humanity: the lazy, free-loading husband, the wife who holds multiple part-time jobs (Cruz), and the teenaged daughter (Cobo) who defiantly wants a more glamorous life. Even further in the background is the sister who survives by running an illegal beauty salon out of her apartment. These women are survivors. They stubbornly live each day, hoping to awake the next day to a little less drudgery, a little less sadness, and a little more success. Other characters include the mother (Maura) and a village neighbor, both of whom are lonely keepers of secrets. Each has a need to be fulfilled, but they do not know how to ask for help, and they fear the consequences. The incidental characters (Raimunda’s friends, Sole’s customers, the movie crew) add true depth to the cast and a sense of reality to the script. As a friend commented after seeing this film for the second time, "Everybody needs friends such as Raimunda’s, friends who do not ask questions, friends who are loyal and supportive, friends to laugh with and to cry with."

The cinematography is fabulous. The colors jump off the screen with vibrancy. There is color everywhere: in the stairwell tiles, in the clothing, in the cars and street scenes. Red dominates. One especially commanding scene shows a paper towel mopping up blood, only it looks like delicate red lace.

Underlying it all is incomparable music, subtle and cacophonous. It builds suspense, embraces the mourning, uplifts the frightened, and celebrates friends and family. The theme song, Volver, is a classic flamenco piece, balanced by snippets of currently popular songs, and music written for the movie.

Penelope Cruz is a deserved Best Actress nominee for both SAG and the Oscars. But you will also be transfixed by the young actress Yohana Cobo. Her scene awaiting her mother at the bus stop tears at your heart. Carmen Maura turns in a performance that is both touching and humorous. The entire cast lends an aura of reality to the people and events.

Volver is a movie to see again and again. It is like peeling back the petals on a rose bud, each layer revealing another incomparable layer. Thought provoking, funny and serious, watching it is a pleasure that wears well through repeated viewings.

Note: Although this movie has an R rating, there are only suggestions of sexual encounters, and one after-the-fact violent scene.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

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laberinto

El Laberinto del fauno
Duración: 112 minutes
Director: Guillermo del Toro
En español con subtítulos en ingles

See review in English below

La existencia de universos paralelos es la vida de la joven Ofelia. Por ella vemos el mundo de la posguerra en España, una época de violencia increíble, de odio, y de desacuerdo. Para escaparse de este mundo de adultos (un padre difunto, una madre quien se casó con un capitán en el ejército falangista, y un mundo lleno de violencia y crueldad), Ofelia lee vorazmente. Prefiere leer libros de fantasía, del mundo de las hadas y las criaturas mágicas. Allí encuentra amigos y un entendimiento de su mundo por la lectura y la imaginación.

Es una película que se trata de los conflictos entre lo bueno y lo malo, y es un conflicto que no gana ningún lado. Lo malévolo existe en cada mundo, Ofelia debe enfrentarse con esas maldades y manejarlas en su propia manera. Su padrastro es un hombre sádico, cruel, y trastornado quien goza de torturarles a los guerrillas capturados que viven en las montañas cercanas. A él no le importa si la nueva esposa muera al dar luz a su bebé, sólo le importa que exista progenie quien lleva su nombre hacia el futuro. El ama de casa es la única persona que puede darle cariño a Ofelia y que se preocupa por lo que le pase a ella.

El mundo fantástico de Ofelia ha determinado que ella es la princesa perdida quien regresará trayendo prosperidad y alegría a su dominio subterráneo. Para probar que es la verdadera princesa, hay tres pruebas que tiene que completar. Se acerca a este mundo de fantasías tal como fuera un mundo real. Su primer contacto es con un insecto que parece un mantis religiosa (en México lo llaman el caballito del diablo) a quien tranquilamente le hace la pregunta, "¿Eres hada?" y de allí consigue entrada al mundo subterráneo por un laberinto vigilado por Pan.

La película presenta vividamente la política represiva de la España pos-1940, y está conforme con otras presentaciones cinemáticas de aquella época de España. Hay mucha violencia en aquel mundo verdadero, violencia que se refleja parcialmente en el mundo de la fantasía. Esta película definidamente no es una película de niños, y aún puede ser un poco fuerte para unos adultos.

Los efectos especiales que del Torro usa para crear los personajes fantásticos se impresionan mucho. El fauno empieza por ser algo feo, de miedo, y amenazador. Mientras progresa la relación que tiene con Ofelia, los rasgos físicos y sus movimientos se suavizan; aún cuando se enfada tiene cariño. A la otra mano, el ogro que encuentra Ofelia es verdaderamente espantoso.

En el cine donde vimos la película, los subtítulos fueron parcialmente escondidos debajo de la pantalla, haciendo difícil entender el diálogo. Mi compañero no entiende el español, pero con la claridad de las imágenes en la pantalla y las interpretaciones espléndidas de los actores, la trama salió claro.
- Recomendado por Sheila Cockey, Comentarista y Editora en Español

English

El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labryinth)
Run Time: 112 minutes
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
In Spanish with English subtitles

Living in parallel universes, the young Ofelia opens to the viewer the world of post civil war Spain, an era of incredible violence, hatred, and misunderstanding. To escape the world of adults (a dead father, a mother who has married an army captain and is now pregnant, a move from the city to the isolated mountain bivouac of the captain, and a world filled with violence and cruelty), Ofelia reads voraciously. Her preferred genre is fantasy, the world of fairies and magical creatures. She finds friends and understanding of her world through her reading and imagination.

This is a film about the conflicts between good and evil, and it is a conflict that neither side wins. There is evil in both worlds, evils that Ofelia must confront and manage on her terms. Her stepfather is a sadistic, cruel, and disturbed man who takes joy in torturing captured members of the guerrilla forces living in the surrounding mountains. He does not care if his new wife dies in childbirth, he cares only that he has a progeny that will carry on his name. The housekeeper is the only person who can demonstrate true caring about Ofelia and what happens to her.

Ofelia’s fantasy world has determined that she is the long-lost princess who will bring prosperity to their underworld kingdom. To prove that she is the princess she has three tests to complete. She approaches her fantasy world as if it were a real world. Her first contact is with a praying-mantis-like insect to which she calmly asks, "Are you a fairy?" and from there she gains access to the underworld through a labyrinth guarded by Pan.

The film vividly represents the highly repressive policies of post 1940 Spain, and is in line with other cinematic representations of this time in Spain. There is a lot of violence in that real world, violence that is reflected to a certain extent in the fantasy world. This is definitely not a children’s movie, and it may be a little strong for some adults.

The special effects used for creating the fantasy characters are stunning. The faun starts out being something ugly, scary, and menacing. As his relationship with Ofelia grows his features and mannerisms soften; even when he is angry he is still a caring individual. The ogre she meets is a truly frightening creature.

In the theater where we watched this movie, the subtitles were partially below the screen, making it difficult for my non-Spanish speaking companion to read them. However, because of the clarity of images on the screen, and superb acting, the plot was clear.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

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Don Quijote Cabalga de Nuevo (2004)
Director: Roberto Gavaldon - 1973
Run time: 129 minutes

See English Review below

Una de las mejores versiones de las películas que tratan de la novela clásica de Don Quijote de la Mancha por Miguel de Cervantes, los personajes en esta película no son exagerados caricaturales, sino son más bien seres humanos multi-dimensionales.  La ironía, el humor, y lo serio de la novela están bien presentados por los actores, sobre todo los personajes de Quijote, Sancho, y Dulcinea. 

El título se refiere a cuando empieza la película: después de la primera salida de don Quijote en la cual quiere corregir los males del mundo.  La cronología de la novela está un poco reorganizada  pero todas las escenas importantes aparecen – las de los molinos y los vinos hasta la de Sancho como gobernador.  Conocemos a la gente que puebla la vida de Alonso de Quijana, y vemos los encuentros con los caballeros de la Media Luna y de los Espejos.  Somos testigos de la lucha entre lo ideal y lo real, entre lo que es humano y lo que no es, justamente como cuando leemos la novela.  Vi la película por primera vez en 1973 en México DF y he pasado 30 años desde entonces buscando una copia para usar en mis clases. 

La búsqueda terminó esta primavera en El Corte Inglés en Madrid.  Autorizada para todo público, es una buena película no solo para las personas que entienden bastante bien el español, sino también para clases avanzadas.  He mirado esta película con gente que no entiende ni una palabra de español y pudieron seguir la acción y entender mucho del diálogo, gracias a su conocimiento de la novela, junto con la magnífica actuación y la espectacular vestimenta y cinematografía.  El DVD que compré en Madrid no tiene subtítulos, pero esto no dificulta el placer de mirarla.  Recomiendo esta película a cualquier persona que tenga un conocimiento general de español y/o de la novela.  Es una presentación bien balanceada que vale la pena mirar, ya sea por la diversión o por el estudio de la novela.
Disponible en El Corte Inglés:  www.elcorteingles.com
- Recomendado por Sheila Cockey

Don Quijote Rides Again (2004)
Director: Roberto Gavaldon - 1973
Run time: 129 minutes

One of the better film versions of Miguel de Cervantes' classic, the characters in this film are not over-played and do not come across as caricatures, but rather as more multi-dimensional human beings. The 3 main personages of Quijote, Sancho, and Dulcinea ably convey the irony, the humor, and the serious nature of the novel's text. The title refers to when the movie picks up the action of the novel: after Quijote's first foray out to right the wrongs of the world. The chronology of the novel is slightly reorganized to suit the needs of the film, but all of the major scenes are there - from the famous windmill and wine skins to Sancho as governor. We meet the people who live in Alonso de Quijana's life, and we see don Quijote's encounters with the Knights of the Mirrors and the Crescent Moon.

We witness the struggle between idealism and realism, between humanity and inhumanity, just as we do when reading the novel. I first saw this film in 1973 in Mexico City and have spent the last 30 years trying to find a copy of it to use in my classes. My search ended in El Corte Inglés in Madrid this spring. Rated for general audiences, not only is it a good film for the viewer who is fairly adept in Spanish, but also for a class of advanced level students. I have watched this film with people who do not know any Spanish, and because of their familiarity with the novel along with the wonderful acting and the spectacular costumes and cinematography, they were able to follow the movie.

The particular version that I purchased in Madrid does not have subtitles in any language, but it has not hindered the enjoyment of the film. I highly recommend this film for anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of Spanish and/or the novel. It is a balanced presentation worthy of being watched for the entertainment value or as part of a study of the novel.
Available from El Corte Inglés: www.elcorteingles.com
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey

Cosas que Dejé en la Habana (Things I Left in Havana) - 1997
Run time: 110 minutes
Three Cuban sisters immigrate to Spain in search of a better life and brighter future. Once in Madrid, they find that the grass in not necessarily greener on the other side. As illegal aliens who have outstayed their visitor visas, Rosa, Ludmilla, and Nena find themselves at the mercy of their tyrannical aunt Maria who exploits them shamelessly. Nena meets Igor, a fellow Cuban exile, but when she expresses an interest in him, Igor turns her down saying she reminds him too much of world he would rather forget (Cuba), and is only interested in finding a rich Spanish woman to take care of him. In the meantime, wheeler-dealer Aunt Maria tries to get one of the sisters to agree to an arranged marriage with the idea that once the deal is closed, her niece will gain legal status. The eldest is willing to go along with this charade, but the prospective mother-in-law decides that the prettier Nena would be the better candidate. Nena is by this time involved in a love triangle involving herself, Igor and his desired Spanish woman. The film explores, with gentle humor, the bittersweet reality of immigration and resettlement.
- Recommended by Ephy Amoah-Ntim

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En el Pais de No Pasa Nada (In the Country Where Nothing Happens) - 1999
Run time: 98 minutes
This movie won three awards at the 2000 Guadalajara Film Festival. Fernando Lujan and Julietta Equrrola turn in stellar performances in this hilarious social satire set in Mexico City. Enrique (Lujan) is a sleazy business man involved in drug dealing and money laundering while fronting as a milk distributor. He is cheating on his oblivious, soap-opera obsessed wife Elena (Equrrola), with Rita, an aspiring rock star, but his cushy existence is abruptly interrupted when he is kidnapped and held for ransom. Elena and Rita, who have met by this time and are quite friendly, decide that Enrique isn’t worth the ransom money to ensure his safe return. The ensuing absurdity arising from the antics of his incompetent captors result in a delightfully irreverent look at the ills of modern society.
- Recommended by Ephy Amoah-Ntim

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El Peñón de las Animas (The Rock of the Souls) - 1942
This film features the Latin film icon, Maria Felix in a brilliant debut performance. The movie captures the story of love between Maria Angela and Fernando, the children of two feuding families. In this ranchero (Mexican Western) version of Romeo and Juliet , the two lovers fight plots by their family members to tear them apart, and eventually find their destiny in the canyon of the spirits.
-Recommended by Isela Guzmán

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Fresas y Chocolate (Strawberries and Chocolate) - 1993
This film is a social satire that makes fun of the social classes in contemporary Cuba. It was the first Cuban film to receive a Best Foreign Film nomination at the American Academy Awards. Set in 1979 Cuba, the young and idealistic David is loyal to his rigid Communist regime until he meets the charming and flirtatious Diego who both intrigues and repulses him. The film is based on David’s relationships with this intellectual gay artist, his suicidal neighbor, and a blue refrigerator named Rocco. Fresas y Chocolate is a charming movie that will make you smile but also reflect on the deeper issues of Cuban society with its focus on political issues and the future of Cuba. Needless to say, this film was quite controversial in Cuba. Fresas y Chocolate is available for purchase from Amazon.
- Recommended by Dorcas Francisco

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Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) -1992
Run time: 113 minutes
Produced and directed by Alfonso Arau, “Like Water for Chocolate”, the 1992 movie, stays true to the scintillating novella by Laura Esquivel. Narrated by her great niece, Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of Tita (Lumi Cavos) and Pedro (Marco Leonardi) – a couple so deeply in love but forbidden to be together by Tita’s old–fashioned mother who selfishly believes in the tradition that the youngest daughter must stay home and care for her mother until she passes away. Tita looks on in helpless despair as her true love weds her older sister Rosauria. At the reception, Pedro and Tita dance together and he whispers to her that he only married Rosauria to be as close as he possibly can to her. As she makes the wedding cake, Tita’s tears fall on the mix and magically all of the guests begin to feel an overwhelming burst of sadness at the first taste. Throughout the movie, these bouts of magical realism so prominent in the book come to life and the comedy, love, and food take over the screen.
Rated R for sexuality, Like Waster for Chocolate was rated 4 stars by the Chicago SunTimes.
- Recommended by Carolina Ferrerosa

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Tacones Lejanos (High Heels) - 1991
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Run time: 114 minutes

Almodovar is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker from Spain. In his 1991 film Tacones Lejanos or High Heels, a girl’s mother returns after 15 years to find her daughter has married one of the mother’s old boyfriends. As they try to mend their broken mother/daughter relationship and deal with their common lover, the lover turns up dead. The timid daughter played by Victoria Abril and the egotistical mother played by Marisa Paredes set the tone for an exciting, suspenseful adventure. The melodramatic nature of the movie adds a hint a charm and entertainment. Tacones Lejanos was nominated for several Goya Awards as well as the Best Foreign Language Film at the 1992 Golden Globes. This movie is available from Amazon.
- Recommended by Dorcas Francisco

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Valentin -2003
Run time: 82 minutes
This wonderful little film from Argentina is about a 9 year old "porteño" named Valentin who is trying get some answers to some big questions about life, such as family, friendship, and love. Bright and well-spoken, he tells the story of all the things that happened to him in the year 1968, the year he decided NOT to become an astronaut, the year he learned about loss, and the year he learned about how different families can be, the year he searched for his place in the world.
This movie gets 5 stars in my book. My students, who are a hard crowd, laughed and cried throughout the whole film, and it is also big hit in my own home. You truly get a feel for the Argentine Spanish and the everyday "street talk" that we are normally not exposed to as students and teachers of Spanish. The Argentine ’60s music is wonderful and the characters pull you in because of their realness. There are so many ways to incorporate this movie into the classroom, besides getting addicted to it in your house! It is 82 minutes in length and has a rating of PG-13 for some language and thematic issues.
- Recommended by Erica Wall

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Y tu mamá también. (And Your Mom, too) - 2001
Sometimes the process of growing up can be painful yet beautiful; it is the age when we try to find ourselves and many questions come to our minds. Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), two late–teens about to become adults, are not the exception: With their hormones ruling their lives and wishing to experiment all the pleasures in the world around them, they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú) a simple, but enigmatic woman. How can the power of this beautiful, Spanish lady affect the friendship of these guys? Other background topics such as the relationship between the upper and the middle classes, the corruption existing in the Latin American governments, the vulnerability of friendship and the acceptance of things we can not change, make this movie, directed by the renowned director Alfonso Cuarón, simply unforgettable. Rated "R", it is not obviously for all audiences, but if you consider yourself "open-minded," watch it and I bet you will start analyzing and understanding better the confusing, but wonderful world of puberty.This movie was nominated for an Oscar and for a Golden Globe Award. It was the winner of the Venice Film Festival in 2001, the London Critics Circle Film Award, and the Seattle Film Critics Award.
– Recommended by Juan Ramón Joya, El Salvador

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Habla con Ella (Talk to Her) 2000
Pedro Almodóvar has created another memorable film. The focus in "Habla con Ella" is on two comatose women in a Madrid hospital and the two men who love them. Benigno (Javier Camara), a male nurse, is lovingly looking after Alicia (Leonor Watling), a beautiful young dancer. He meets Marco (Dario Grandinetti) who comes to the hospital to visit Lydia (Rosario Flores), a female bullfighter, who lapsed into a coma after being gored by a bull. Marco feels very uncomfortable with Lydia until he becomes friends with Benigno who helps him cope with Lydia's situation. The acting is uniformly excellent, the scenography superb, and the story both heart-warming and shocking. The film takes many bizarre turns and keeps the viewer enthralled until the very end.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)
Pedro Almodovar
MGM/UV (1988), 89 minutes

Pepa (Carmen Maura) has just been jilted by her lover Ivan (Fernando Guillen) and she goes to pieces. Her friend Candela is also falling apart after discovering that her boy friend is a terrorist planning to hijack a plane. Ivan's wife Lucia has just been released from a mental hospital and wants to kill her husband. This all may sound serious but the film is actually a very hilarious comedy. Antonio Banderas plays a minor role as the son of Ivan's wife and becomes helplessly involved in the lives of the three unstable women. The director is the highly-acclaimed Pedro Almodovar.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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La Generala (The General), 1970, Run time: 100 mins.
Maria Félix, possibly Mexico's finest actress, was a true paragon for the modern woman ahead of her time. Feisty yet sophisticated, she was an extraordinary combination of intellectual femininity and boldness. In La Generala, Félix fights alongside her lover (a general for the Páncho Villa army) to avenge the death of her father who was brutally murdered by the federales, while she looked on helplessly as a child. When the man she loves is betrayed from within his military unit, La Generala (now, a revolutionist fighting for the rights of the people) is caught in a moral dilemma and is forced to make a choice between staying to fight for the cause and avenging her father's death, or fleeing the battle with the man she loves.
-Recommended by Isela Guzman

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