Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Yuli – **(*)

Posted: February 9, 2020 in 2018, biopic, Cuba, Drama, Spain, UK, XX1/2

Carlos Acosta was the first black dancer ever to perform as Romeo at the Royal Ballet of London.

This shouldn’t be remarkable, but it unfortunately still is. Of course this success has to do with opportunities and luck and fate, but talent is needed nevertheless.

This movie starts with the now older Acosta directing a ballet performance based on his life story… and as he has his dancers rehearse the sequences he reminisces and the movie goes in flashback mode to some pivotal moments in his life.

It is a tricky approach, to shift from modern ballet scenes to storytelling flashbacks. And it is also interesting to see a biopic in which the actual main character is playing himself. But it works really well.

More than a biopic and a ballet movie, the story focuses on the troubled father-son relationship. And it is very honest. The young Cuban boy has no desire to become a ‘faggot’ dancer, but his father pushes him into the ballet school. A reverse Billy Elliott so to speak. Not only his father, but also his Cuban dance teacher constantly have to motivate or command him to continue dancing. Especially after an accident halts his successful career for a bit, he needs their tough encouragement to continue. It is clear that this movie is an hommage to them.

The acting by the father, the teacher and the young Acosta is excellent. The story touches on several Cuban issues as well without being too detailed. It is well filmed. At least the flashback scenes are.

Worth checking out !!!

Palmeras En La Nieve – **

Posted: December 14, 2019 in 2015, Drama, Romance, Spain, XX

Browsing through the Netflix catalogue, I came across a Spanish movie, which story is set in…  Equatorial Guinea! Hm.

It’s a good movie. A bit long and rushed at the same time. Long, because it’s longer than 2,5 hours, but rushed, because it’s a story that needs more depth, more background, more details.

A young woman wants to learn more about the past of her deceased dad and her uncle’s time in Spain’s former African colony. As she embarks on her adventure, the viewers get to see the secret story in long flashbacks.

It’s very dramatic. DRAMA in capital letters. And a lot of questions arise. All the time. Why this? How that? But it’s interesting and intriguing. Even though there’s a silly far fetched plot twist somewhere half way through. It’s relatively well acted, but just because the story is rushed you feel like it’s all very superficial. This is the kind of story that needs 12 episodes. With a better direction and a better script, this could be a top show. Now it kind of feels like a telenovela at times, which can’t really have been the plan.

The questions already start in the beginning. A young woman, whose dad has passed away, visits her uncle, who has Alzheimers. Fine so far, then the woman finds a diary and gets curious. She gets even more intrigued when she finds half of a torn picture and a letter. She confronts a family friend who also lived in the colony at the time and that’s where the questions arise. Even when the movie is over. Like, why did the niece never confront her dad with the diary and the torn picture? It’s on his desk, it’s not like it’s hidden in a box somewhere. And why does the acquaintance not tell more of her memories to these two women? She ends up playing a real important role, but no, she lets this young woman go figure things out for herself.

Anyways, it’s a good thing though. When the first five minutes of the movie make you get intrigued.

And the actress who plays the main lead in the flashbacks is gorgeous! just saying.

Good, but it could have been so much better.



Life is shit in Cuba.

This is the main feeling you get after watching this drama made with Spanish money and filmed in Puerto Rico.

Two friends, who often meet playing soccer together, feel attracted to each other, but can’t really share their love with the outside world. Yosvani lives with his girlfriend in her father’s comfortable house: Reinier lives with his wife and baby and mother-in-law in a shabby apartment. The latter is the most interesting character: gambler and soccer player by day, prostitute by night. Too bad the actor (and the director) didn’t make him more compelling and appealing. The former is less interesting: a troubled closeted and naive dreamer. Strangely enough he gets all the sympathy.

The story is captivating and shocking at times (the mother-in-law acts like a pimp and encourages Reinier to go fuck rich Europeans and bring home the money) and it’s okay to show the reality of the popular tourist destination, but in order to digest it well you need humor at times and some action. There are some moments of fun (at the fair and at the beach), but the sadness outweighs the happiness.

If you want to feel miserable watching other people be miserable, then this is your movie!

Diamantes Negros – **1/2

Posted: February 19, 2014 in 2013, Drama, Mali, Spain, Sportsdrama, XX1/2

There’s a lot of misery in this Spanish movie about the ongoing trade of minor soccer players from Africa. It’s incredibly depressing and makes you very angry at this scandalous business. You can’t blame the African kids who dream of world stardom and easily trust any scout that promises to bring them to Europe. You can only blame the scrupulous businessmen who treat their new recruits as disposable products if they don’t deliver. And you can blame the commercial game of soccer which creates these dreams and opens doors for crooks to bring on new talent.

I am not a soccer fan, apart from the fact that is a uniting game played in almost every single culture all over the world and thus an easy subject understand other societies. That’s what makes this movie appealing to a large audience. The storyline may be predictable and quite simple, but never bores and it allows for some cultural education as well. There is even room for (intercultural) humour.

The story focuses on two childhood friends from Mali who get recruited by a Spanish talent scout. They have to invest a lot of money to get the opportunity to leave for Europe, but their family and local society are convinced they will pay it back one day. So off they go to Madrid where they encounter Western Society with all its up and downs.

The two actors are obviously new to the acting business but they perform well. One is exited and nervous about the adventure and does not want to disappoint his family. The other has more talent, but is more reserved and cautious. Both are in for an emotional roller coaster ride of good and bad surprises. They carry the movie and make it worth the watch.

The Impossible – **1/2

Posted: December 28, 2012 in 2012, Disaster, Drama, Spain, XX1/2

Eight years ago a tsunami hit Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives and other South Eastern countries. It’s one of those shocking moments in life that make you realize how fragile we still are. I don’t really remember where I was when I heard the news, but I remember how devastated I was seeing the images in the aftermath.

And now there’s a movie, produced and made in Spain but staring an English-speaking cast, that will draw all those people to the cinema, who want to know what really happened there. It’s based on a true story about a family of five getting separated by the tsunami and hoping for the impossible to reconnect. It’s very dramatic, but the fact that it’s a true story makes it acceptable. The tsunami scenes are impressive and it’s very emotional when certain family members reunite. This is a perfect example of a good drama with all the ingredients that  you get taught at the movie directing school. It’s just missing that extra originality that makes a good movie great. And there are a few scenes that are unintentionally funny when they should scare or touch you emotionally. Like when Ewan McGregor makes a phone call home for instance. Not your best acting, mate!

The stand out performance in this movie is not coming from Naomi Watts, but from the young Tom Holland who absolutely steals every single scene he’s in. Not since Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot did a young kid perform this good.

A man takes a plane to Ushuaia to scatter the ashes of his diseased wife on the exact location of where they first met. After he checks in at the hotel, he watches an item on tv about people peacefully dying in the snow. In the room next door is a stewardess who arrived on the same flight and fears of being pregnant. She also falls asleep watching the same tv show. Both meet the next day in a snowy landscape supposedly trying to commit suicide individually. They decide to go back and hang out. A bit like La Fille Sur Le Pont, but then filmed on a low-budget in the southernmost part of Argentina.

I always feel bad dissing a low-budget movie, but sometimes it’s SO obvious that it starts to annoy. It’s like the movie team was in Ushaia for 5 days when the weather was bad and they only had three or four locations where they could film. Every scene could only be recorded in one take, preferably at night. And preferably ten minutes long. You can make a good movie with those limitations, but then the story should be different. If I start watching a movie taking place in Ushuaia where people intend to die slowly just by letting themselves be caught by the cold of a snow storm, then I want to see snow. I want to see a white glare on the screen. Not something grey. Unfortunately a lot of the poetry that couldn’t be visualized is read out in a voice over. I’m sure it’s very poetic in Spanish, but the beauty was lost in translation. Even the jokes were very linguistic and didn’t translate well. But the main problem why I didn’t like this movie that much is that there was no passion in this love story. I just didn’t believe that these two strangers were supposed to meet and find each other. Sorry

Chico & Rita – **

Posted: February 20, 2012 in 2010, Animation, Spain, UK, XX

Nominated for an Oscar (in the animation category), but having totally escaped from my radar: Chico & Rita, a romantic animation movie from Spain about two Cuban artists who met in the late forties and got separated by the revolution. I watched it at a friend’s place, who’s Cuban and who had a copy with no subtitles. Luckily it’s a romantic story and it has a lot of music, so I could easily understand what it was all about and also appreciate it.

I don’t really understand why it got nominated though. Sure, it’s hand drawn animation, which in times of stop motion and 3D is quite unique. But the story is so simple and predictable that you wonder what the fuzz is all about. Yes, the soundtrack is amazing. Yes, it’s pretty daring with all the (female) nudity. Yes, the drawings are a nice change. But in the end, it’s just a story about a man and a woman who were meant to be with each other but didn’t because of all kinds of circumstances. And the drawings are really not all that impressive. This should be a passionate movie, but the animation isn’t passionate at all. I know there’s an audience who will disagree (hey, there’s even animation porn), but it just failed to deliver for me.  Both Chico and Rita have vulva looking lips and do strange things with their eyes. Not attractive at all.

But, I hadn’t seen a similar animation movie yet and it really isn’t a bad movie at all. Plus: it gives a great impression of how Havana must have been like before the revolution! And I’ve purchased the soundtrack in the mean time.