Sunday, September 29, 2013

12th Spanish Film Festival

Yet another foreign language film festival is set to amuse us.  This time it is the 12th edition of Pelicula - the Spanish Film Festival.  It will run from the 3rd of October until the 13th at the Greenbelt 3 Cinemas.

Here is the schedule of films

For more details, kindly check out its official website at

Friday, September 13, 2013


Cine Europa 16
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

"Beyond" is a hauntingly powerful movie as it deals with alcoholism and domestic abuse.  It is based on a novel by Susanna Alakoski and is the directorial debut of Swedish actress Pernilla August. 

A single phone call from the hospice where her mother is confined rattles Leena (Noomi Rapace) to the core. Her mother whom she has not seen in ages has only a few hours to live and wants to see her. Suddenly Leena is confronted with the demons from her past, a childhood that was wracked with neglectful parents who were mostly drunk and whose fights would turn violent.

Her past comes to the screen through flawless flashbacks where we witness how a young Leena holds the household together as her parents spiral out of control. How she practically raised her young brother trying her best to shield him from experiencing first hand the murky effects that alcoholism had imposed on their parents.  How she turns into an expert swimmer in school as her means of escape from the troubles at home.

Leena's present life though seems like a complete contrast as she is happily married to a supportive husband and they dote on their two daughters. Yet confronted with the resurgence of the memories of her past, she turns into a bitter person. Quite understandably so.  All the years of neglect and abuse she witnessed as a child come rushing to the surface and suddenly she doesn't know how to process the experience.

Case in point, when her mother talks to her on her deathbed, she tells Leena "there were some good times, though. All those parties."  Leena retorts "those were not nice parties they were disgusting drunken messes".  Two people who experience the same experience yet remember them quite differently.  Sad but a hauntingly true depiction of life.

The film itself is difficult to process despite the simplicity in the manner it was presented on screen.  It is disturbing to watch a young child go through so much misery at the hands of her own parents.  But what is more troubling is how parents can be so neglectful of their own children.  
But I am mature enough to know that not all families are blessed with parents who provide a loving home for their children.  And sometimes it takes a film like "Beyond" to show us we need to be more appreciative of our own family.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Cine Europa 16
Shang Cineplex, Cinema 2

Barbara is a doctor assigned to a small town. She was 'banished' after she was caught trying to secure an exit pass to travel to West Germany.  Setting is obviously during the Cold War era when Germany was still divided by the Berlin Wall.

The audience though is not given much information about her background, her social status or even if she has any family or relatives in the Western part of Germany.  Day in and day out, we see her wearing the same clothes as she reports to the hospital where she is assigned.  She rarely interacts with her colleagues except with another doctor named Andre who is what I call the friendly/flirty type. We also witness that she is under constant surveillance from what we assume is the local police or whatever office is tasked with monitoring suspicious individuals.

Nina Hoss the actress who portrays Barbara has this melancholic expression on her face. She barely smiles and her movements/gestures are guarded. Great personification of an intriguing yet somewhat quite sad character.  Sometimes you can't help but feel like giving Barbara a hug just to cheer her up a bit or just to reassure her that everything will be alright.  Even though we know just how restricted her life in the East really is.

But everything is not as dour as there is a slight glimmer of hope as we see Barbara is secretly planning another 'escape'.   As the day slowly approaches, we sense very little excitement on her part (or she is probably just good at hiding her emotions).  We also see how she is slowly but surely coming out of her shell as she becomes more open with Dr. Andre. 

Overall, this well acted drama moves at a slow pace yet it is tinged with a silent sense of foreboding for such an intriguing character. Everything is quite subtle even the little twist towards the ending which made me sad yet I couldn't help but feel like things would work out just fine for Barbara despite her painful yet very noble decision.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Cine Europa 16
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

From the Czech Republic comes this tale set in a Nazi occupied small town about a childless couple trying to make ends meet during the war.  As if that is not hard enough, Marie and Josef Cizek decide to hide a young Jewish man. David is the son of Josef's former employer.  Fortunately, he was able to escape from a concentration camp where the rest of his family perished. 

These are troubled times and the couple try to keep a semblance of normalcy in their community. Of course, it isn't easy because nosy colleagues and gossipy neighbors are always on the look out for anything suspicious in their neighborhood. The secrecy is also posing a threat to their marriage and their inability to conceive.

The movie has a vintage vibe to it even though it was filmed only in 2001. The cast do their best to essay their characters, realistically. Their varied emotions as well as their distinct behaviors are very characteristic of people living under so much pressure. 

The plot authentically presents the full impact of living under occupation. Collaborators were also quite common as certain enterprising individuals chose to help the 'enemy'. It is difficult to phantom what motivates a person to 'side' with the occupying forces yet I also understand it is a simple case of survival.  This issue isn't tackled at length but only in passing towards the end of this film yet for me it was the most poignant part.

Nevertheless, "Divided We Fall" is still a provocative film about the Nazi occupation in a small Czech town.  It has its fair share of dramatic moments along with funny situations just like real life!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Cine Europa 16
Shang Cineplex, Cinema 2

From Denmark comes this period piece based on a true story which unfolds during the close of the 18th century. A young English princess marries the King of Denmark, Christian VII.  He is what we now call autistic but back in those days, they all believe he was insane. So the Court decides to hire a physician.  In comes, Johann Frederich Struensee, a German doctor who is secretly part of the Enlightenment movement - an organization of intellectuals and free thinkers.

During those ages, Denmark was an oppressive nation ruled by a conservative Parliament and the influential clergy.   Soon enough, the good doctor finds himself in the bed of the young but strong minded Queen Caroline Mathilda as well as the 'brains' behind the much ridiculed King.  But as we later find out, Struensee  pays dearly for his indiscretions - a public beheading.

The film begins with the exiled Queen writing a letter to her two children explaining to them why she had an affair with the German doctor.  Then it effortlessly moves into flashback mode as we are taken 9 years earlier. 

This drama about an illicit relationship is well executed. The costumes are authentic, the cinematography is lusciously bold and vivid and the cast portray their roles, realistically. Mads Mikkelsen who I guess is Denmark's most famous import to the film industry stars as the quiet yet charismatic doctor Struensee. It was interesting to watch his character evolve from the silent behind the scenes doctor to the powerful almost greedy enforcer of Denmark's reforms.

The story line tackles intrigues, politics, the magnetic draw of power all in the pursuit of the greater good of mankind. Although it clocks at over 2 hours, it was still fascinating to watch a good period drama about a faraway Scandinavian land which I never had the chance to visit.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Cine Europa, the film festival featuring European movies turns 16 this year. It will have its Metro Manila run at Cinema 2 of the Shang Cineplex in Mandaluyong from 5 to 15 September 2013. This year it showcases 21 compelling movies from the 17 participating European countries.  Different genres to cater to the audience of all ages.

Admission is free on a first come first served basis. Tickets will be released 30 minutes before screening time.

Schedule of films to be shown at Shang Cineplex, Cinema 2:


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