Three of the best from La Oreja de Van Gogh

La Oreja de Van Gogh are a Spanish band who have been around for two decades and have been highly successful in their home land and in South America. I have skimmed through some of their music while on flights – I always browse the Romance language film and music selections on a plane whenever they are available – but have never really studied La Oreja much at home. Their name in English would be Van Gogh’s ear.

This weekend I heard a friend doing karaoke to Rosas (a No.1 hit in Spain and many South American countries in 2003). So, out of curiosity, I had to look up to see what was it supposed to have sounded like. Here is a live performance of the song, featuring the current lead singer, Leire Martínez.

If you want to sing along yourself, you will need the “letras”. Here they are!

The original lead singer was Amaia Montero, who had quite a different style. Here she is in another chartbuster, Puedes Contar Comigo (You Can Count On Me), also from 2003.

Let’s move on a few years to 2013 when the single,  El Primer Día Del Resto De Mi Vida (“The first day of the rest of my life“) was released. It’s a cheerful one.

I hope you liked this selection. They are definitely a band worth investigating if you want to improve your Spanish.

Screen queens, stubborn soldiers and shots in a bar: Spanish Film Festival fare

The Bar copy

Eight people walk into a bar and then … a scene from El Bar (The Bar)

As one film festival closes (I’m talking about Australia’s French Film Festival), so another one begins. And this time, amigos, the featured language is Spanish. And it’s a landmark for the Spanish Film Festival – this will be its 20th edition, with some 34 films to show for it. Here is the schedule.

  • Sydney (April 18 to May 7)
  • Canberra (April 19 to May 7)
  • Melbourne (April 20 to May 7)
  • Adelaide (April 26 to May 14)
  • Perth (April 27 to May 17)
  • Brisbane (April 27 to May 14)
  • Hobart (May 11-18)

Some of my favourite Spanish actresses are featured, and I’m looking forward to seeing these in films in particular:

Penélope Cruz in La Reina De España (The Queen of Spain) 

The Queen of Spain

The film is set in the 1950s and Penélope plays an actress who returns from Hollywood to play Queen Isabella. It looks lavish.

Maribel Verdú in La Punta Del Iceberg (The Tip Of The Iceberg)

The tip of the iceberg

This film takes a look at corporate culture. When three employees of a multinational corporation commit suicide, Maribel plays an executive who is chosen by the company to investigate (and to do a good PR job for it), but the more she sees, the more aghast she becomes. She doesn’t look happy, does she?

 

For those who like war films or historical epics, 1898, Los Últimos De Filipinas (1898, Our Last Men In The Philippines) should do the trick.

 

1898 our last men of philippines

It certainly looks like movie making in a grand style.

 

Another one that looks interesting is El Bar, (The Bar, pictured at the top of this post). In it, people in a bar find themselves caught up in a terrifying episode.

Photographs courtesy of Palace Films. 

Another award for Elle at the Goyas; The Distinguished Citizen is distinguished

The French rape-revenge film Elle, for which Isabelle Huppert won a Golden Globe and is in the running for the best actress Oscar, picked up Spain’s Goya Award for Best European Film, beating films from the UK and the Hungarian film Son of Saul, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film last year. Despite Huppert’s performance, Elle did not make the Oscar nominations for Best Foreign film this year.

Having been to South America recently, I was curious to see which film would win the Goya for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film – the four films in contention were from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.

The winner was El Ciudadano Ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen), a comedy from Argentina.

One to look out for should it ever come your way.

The Venezuelan film, Desde Allá (From Afar) was a strong contender, having won the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. Its topic is confronting.

 

Patience is a virtue at the Goya Awards

A quick follow-up on the previous post. The winning film at the Goya Awards was … da-da-da-da (drumroll) Tarde Para La Ira (The Fury of a Patient Man).

Variety magazine has a good summary of the Spanish film industry awards here.

 

Monstrous acts dominate top films in Spain’s Goya Awards

The Spanish film industry will be in the spotlight this weekend, when the winners of the 31st Goya Awards will be announced. The ceremony takes place in Madrid on Saturday.

Oddly, the film that garnered the most nominations – 12 of them – A Monster Calls, is not in Spanish, but in English and is based upon the book of the same name by Patrick Ness. However, the director J.A. Bayona, and much of the production team were Spanish, and it is a great credit to the Spanish film industry.

I have seen the film and was enthralled by it. It may look like a typical and possibly silly part-animated children’s movie, along the lines of ‘boy befriends an E.T. or a Lochness Monster’ or in this case a scary tree, but don’t be fooled. Emotionally there is a lot going on here that adults of all generations can relate to.

It is one of the five contenders in the Best Film category. The others are:

Julieta, directed by Pedro Almodóvar. 

(Like A Monster Calls, there is a lot of family anguish and soul-searching going on here. I have seen it but despite it getting rave reviews, it left me somewhat cold and unconvinced. For me A Monster Calls was way more satisfying.)

Que Dios Nos Perdone (May God Save Us), directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen.

(Here two troubled police officers are hunting down a serial killer in Madrid in 2011, just as the Pope is paying a visit. )

El Hombre de Las Mil Caras (Smoke and Mirrors), directed by Alberto Rodríguez.

(This is a political thriller involving a corruption scandal and a Spanish secret service agent who fakes his own death. I could not find a trailer with English subtitles. While the film has been called Smoke and Mirrors in English, a literal translation would be The Man With A Thousand Faces).

Tarde Para La Ira (The Fury of a Patient Man), directed by  Raúl Arévalo.

(This is tale of revenge, full of suspense, with a lot of twists and turns. The Spanish title would be literally translated as Late For Anger. If you are going to see it, try not to read reviews and some reveal too much of the plot)

 

All up, it is not a particularly cheerful bunch of films, is it? The last three in particular are full of macho men behaving badly.

French triumph at Golden Globes

As well as La La Land (which is an excellent film in many ways), the Golden Globes were a notable success for the French film industry. Isabelle Huppert beat the other (English-speaking) nominees to win the award for best actress in a drama for her role in Elle, which was lauded as best foreign film.

Elle was released in Australia in late October, but it is still showing on some screens in Sydney at least, and no doubt it get more screenings in various parts of the world as a result of its success today. It’s a gritty nail-biter of a movie.

Her win was a surprise, and her heart was pumping as much at the Globes awards ceremony as it might have been when she was first confronted by her attacker in Elle.

Another French film, Divines, was among the five nominations for best foreign film, but it focuses on the dubious deeds of a much younger generation.

For those interested in Romance languages, a Spanish film Neruda, was also nominated, as were films from Iran and Germany. Having recently been in Chile, and being a big fan of Gael García Bernal, I am looking forward to seeing Nerudawhich will get a commercial screening in Australia later this year.

Finally, it wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe, but if you get the chance to see the French film Rosalie Blum (which opened in Australia on Boxing Day) I do recommend it. It’s got everything I love about the French film industry – it turns real people leading ordinary human lives into the extraordinary, with great wit and warmth, sadness and poignancy.

 

 

 

 

The Andes, Iguazu and La Ley: what more could you want?

Recently I had the chance to travel to South America – mostly to Brazil, so that was great for my Portuguese, and to a lesser extent in the Spanish-speaking part: Chile and Argentina, to take in the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls (Iguaçu in Portuguese), which, let me tell you, are spectacular. Below are a couple of pics I took with my iPhone, which got a soaking during the day.

img_8139

img_8086

Iguazu Falls … multi-layered and magnificent . Photo: Bernard O’Shea

I was also very lucky to have a window seat while flying over the Andes mountains at sunset (heading east from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro). At the top of this post, and below, are two of the photos I took on that memorable journey.

img_8025

 

While I was in Chile I was excited to find out that my favourite Chilean band – in fact, my favourite Spanish-singer artists in the whole wide mundo – La Ley, had re-formed and brought out a new album this year, called Adaptación, their first since 2003.

Here’s my favourite track from it.

There are 12 songs on the album, two of which are in English. The opening track is also appealing. Here’s a studio clip of it.

I hope you enjoyed this visual and aural foray into South America.

Latino flavour for new film festival

Great news for film lovers and those learning Spanish (and Portuguese) who will happen to be in major Australian cities in August.

Palace Cinemas has programmed a new film festival, the Cine Latino Film Festival, which will feature more than 30 films from 11 countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela..

The festival will be held in Sydney (August 9-24), Canberra (August 10-21), Adelaide (August 11-24), Brisbane (August 12-24) and Melbourne (August 17-31).

The opening night film is Neruda, a Chile/Argentina/France/Spain production which looks at the life of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (played by Luis Gnecco), in which one of my favourite actors, Gael García Bernal, plays a hapless policeman. There is some stunning scenery in it (foreign film festivals are a great form of armchair travel). There are four other feature films from Chile in the program.

Spanish language dominates, as you would expect given that Brazil is the only South/Latin American country where Portuguese is spoken. There is only one feature film from Brazil, The Violin Teacher (the trailer is below but I could not find a trailer with subtitles). You will also be able to hear that language in a short film Maracanazo: The Football Legend, one of four shorts films in a session entitled Back Four: Four Films About Football.

Argentina supplies the bulk of the films (six features and three short films) but there is also a mini-festival within the festival featuring six Mexican films.

You can see the program and other details on the festival website here.

Colombian films shine at Spanish Film Festival

The Spanish Film Festival is in full swing in Australia and as usual it has been great to go along and catch some of the action. Sydney and Melbourne got the first bite at the olive this year and are in the “back by popular demand” stage, putting on extra sessions of the most popular films. But Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart still have a lot to look forward to. Here’s the official festival trailer.

One film I was very keen to see was Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente), the first Colombian film to be nominated for an Oscar, in the Best Foreign Film category. If you ever get the chance to see it, go! It was fantastic, visually stunning and very thought-provoking. It’s a must-see film for anyone who wants to know about life on the Amazon river and in the jungle.

It is also a linguistic feast: English, Cubeo, Wanano, Tikuna, Huitoto, Okaina, Latin, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and German with English subtitles! I guess not many films can beat that.

Check out the trailer.

GREAT ARTICLES ABOUT THE FILM, DIRECTOR AND ACTORS 

Much as I like a good film, I also like a good review of it to match (there’s nothing more off-putting than a tedious review of a great film). The best review I have read of Embrace of the Serpent is this one by Jordan Hoffman in The Guardian.

There are also two interviews I found that are well worth reading:
  • one with the director Ciro Guerra – “I spent five years on this movie because I wanted to take a trip to the unknown. I was tired of the Western way of life, where humans are virtual avatars instead of people. I wanted to see if there was another way of living, and I found it.
  • and the other with a 30-year-old man of Cubeo origin who plays the younger version of the shaman Karamakate – Nilbio Torres had never been to the cinema before and had never heard of the Oscars, until he acted in a film that got nominated for one.

ANOTHER COLOMBIAN FILM TO LOOK OUT FOR 

While I was watching Embrace of the Serpent, a friend of mine who is the arts editor of a newspaper in Canberra was taking in Breathless Time (Tiempo Sin Aire) in the national capital. She texted me after to say it was “amazing”.

For information on all the films in this year’s festival and screening times, the Festival website is here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Palace cinemas are putting on Cine Latino: A New Festival of Latin American Cinema over a two-week period in August, plus there is the Sydney Latin American Film Festival in September.

So, who’s your favourite Guatemalan singer? Maybe Gaby?

Guatemala has been in the news recently, as an emboldened judiciary and plain old people power (there is a lot to be said for people agitating for reform) tackle corruption (details here). I must admit I know little about the country although I do hoard travel brochures on South and Central American and I have admired its Mayan ruins – which probably get overshadowed by the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru. Still, I came across someone from Guatemala recently, and asked him for some Guatemalan musical recommendations. He nominated two singers Gaby Moreno and Ricard Arjona.*

Suggestion number one

Gaby Moreno. Listening to her now, I can see why. She’s young – her Wikipedia entry is here and her own website is here – but she could well have been from an earlier era. Here’s a very well known song Quizás, Quizás,Quizás (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps), which has been done by the likes of Nat King Cole in Spanish and also by a number of artists in an English version. I’m sure you will recognise the tune.

You can see a translation of the lyrics here.

So, let’s have a look at her performing on a video … as you can see, she has a Gatsby look about her.

Suggestion number two

Ricardo Arjona. Sou only have to look at his Wikipedia entry and his discography to realise he is a major star on the Latin music scene. On YouTube you can find compilations of his greatest hits (“exitos”) and they are well worth playing in the background when you have an hour or two to spare at home.

One of his more recent hits, though, features Gaby Moreno, and you will see some Mayan ruins in this clip too (try as I might, I can’t get his videoclips to display like hers above).

Here are some of his other more recent chart-toppers.

 * Later my Guatemalan friend admitted he didn’t like these two singers so much,  preferring instead English electronic music. I think it’s sad when people dismiss their own culture and think a foreign culture is much more hip, but I’ve also been through that phase as a youngster in Africa, so can understand. Sometimes people have to get away from their roots as part of the growing up process, and then later go back and rediscover their cultural heritage – often with a lot more appreciation.