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La Mirada Film Festival 2012

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
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Melbourne is blessed to have a number of outlets showcasing Spanish language cinema. The large contingent of Hispanic films showing at MIFF each year includes the Hola Mexican Film Festival, The Spanish Film Festival (naturally), monthly Filmoteca screenings and La Mirada.

Now in it's sixth year, La Mirada offers a selection of mostly current Spanish language films co-programmed by Pedro Almodovar.

This year's slate includes a few films that Melbourne-ites have had a chance to see already. Among them are a few MIFF hits: the Mexican hostage actioner Miss Bala, the quietly affecting Las Acacias and the excellent Gael Garcia Bernal starrer No, about the attempt to destabilise the Pinochet dictatorship in Peru in the 1980s. There's also the highlight of this year's Spanish Film Festival, Sleep Tight, a taut and creepy thriller about an apartment block concierge and his obsession for one of it's residents.

Almodovar's choices always include a few older films. This year he presents The Girl of Your Dreams, a 1998 drama starring Penelope Cruz, and one of my personal favourite Spanish films of all time, The Red Squirrel. This is an enthralling tale of an amnesiac woman, the violent boyfriend trying to find her and an opportunistic stranger. It's an intriguingly off-beat piece of filmmaking with touches of surreal dreaminess.

This year's opening night film is Extraterrestrial, and it promises to be an absolute stand-out. It's director, Nacho Vigalondo, is one of Spanish cinema's bright young things. His debut, Timecrimes, was a trippy, brain-bending time travel tale. His latest looks equally inventive and playful.

Another potential crowd pleaser is The Sleeping Voice, a critical and commercial success in Spain, about the Spanish Civil War as seen from an almost exclusively distaff point of view. On a completely different note, comedies Ghost Graduation and Game of Werewolves look to deliver thrills and laughs for people wanting something a little lighter.

La Mirada always has a generous serve of documentaries, and this year is no exception. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser is Mugaritz BSO, a sumptuous looking marriage between music and food. The film follows the collaboration between composer Felipe Ugarte and Andoni Luis Aduriz, chef at Mugaritz, which is ranked as the third best restaurant in the world. The stills alone are enough to get your mouth watering. Mugaritz BSO reps one of many docos about artists and art featured in the festival.

Spread over 12 days and two cinema sites (ACMI and Cinema Nova), La Mirada offers a wide range of filmic delights. Whether it's social realism, comedy, documentary or historical drama that floats your flotilla, La Mirada has something for you.

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Why? A feast of Spanish cinema
Phone: (03) 9419 0931
Where: ACMI, Federation Square, and Cinema Nova, Carlton
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