The Spanish are coming!

Miami has long been a welcoming place for filmmakers from Spain — a gateway into the United States that everyone from Javier Bardem to Penelope Cruz to Pedro Almodovar has used to introduce their work to American audiences.

But the tidal wave about to rush onto local movie screens over the next 30 days may be the densest concentration of Spanish cinema ever to hit South Florida.

Kicking off Friday night at the Coral Gables Art Cinema is the weeklong series “Nat Chediak Presents David Trueba: Recent Work,” in which the former co-founder and director of the Miami Film Festival re-enters the cinematic arena to introduce three movies never before screened in South Florida by the younger brother of Oscar-winning Spaniard Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque, Chico & Rita).

Also heading our way:

  • The Last Circus ( Balade triste de trompeta), the latest hair-raising comedy/drama directed by Spanish Wildman Alex de la Iglesia, an outrageous mix of over-the-top violence, surrealist comedy and social commentary, opening at the O Cinema Sept. 22.
  • The Festival of New Spanish Cinema 2011, running Sept. 23-Oct 6, a showcase of six recent films that reflect the best of the auteur theory in Spanish cinema. The lineup includes this year’s Miami Film Festival hit With or Without Love, a sexy musical opening at the Coral Gables Art Cinema on Sept. 23 and five other films at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, including 80 Days, a lighthearted look at unrequited love, and Every Song is About Me, a Woody Allen-esque comedy about an overgrown man-child who is dumped by his girlfriend. That one was directed by Jonas Trueba, son of Fernando and nephew of David.
  • Recent Cinema From Spain, presented Oct. 20-23 by Miami-Dade College at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, will showcase the depth and diversity of Spanish films (the program was not final at press time).
  • The Skin I Live In, opening in South Florida on Oct. 28, reunites director Pedro Almodovar with former leading man Antonio Banderas in a dark tale about a plastic surgeon obsessed with creating a new kind of synthetic skin after his wife is severely burned in a car accident.

The sheer number of films, hailing from practically every conceivable genre, is enough to make any movie buff shout “Ole!” For the visiting filmmakers such as David Trueba, the opportunity to return to South Florida feels like a visit to a second home.

“Miami has always been a very welcoming place for me; it almost feels like a second Spain, because people there really understand our culture and our sense of humor,” says Trueba, who will also participate in a Q&A session titled “David Trueba in Conversation with Nat Chediak” and appear at Books & Books in Coral Gables to sign copies of his first novel translated into English, Learning to Lose.

Chediak, who became a Grammy award-winning music producer after leaving the Miami Film Festival and had walked away from publicly presenting movies, says the opportunity to welcome back Trueba to Miami was impossible to pass up.

“In the 10 years that have passed since I left the festival, David has become a triple threat as a much-lauded filmmaker, novelist and daily columnist for Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais,” Chediak says. “I felt the community needed a three-pronged update on his progress, and a joint partnership between the Spanish Cultural Center, Books & Books and the Coral Gables Art Cinema made this possible.

“David has done nothing like this anywhere in the States, and it’s a natural for a bilingual community such as ours that already knows him from my tenure at the festival. I programmed by first film series at the University of Miami 40 years ago this December: Once a programmer, always a programmer, I guess.”

The three films Chediak selected showcase the various facets of Trueba’s talents: Welcome Home (Bienvenido a casa) is a charming, witty coming-of-age comedy about a young photographer (Alejo Sauras) who moves to Madrid to live with his girlfriend (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) and begin his career as a journalist. Populated by ingenious characters (including a blind film critic with a seeing-eye dog) and leavened with a warm, humanist tone, the film is an example of Spanish cinema at its most enchanting.

Soldiers of Salamina (Soldados de Salamina), which received eight Goya nominations (Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars), is a mature drama about a journalist (Ariadna Gil) who rediscovers her passion for her craft after stumbling upon a mysterious incident in the Spanish Civil War that has repercussions in the present-day. And Whatever Happened To Jorge Sanz? (Que fue de Jorge Sanz?), a six-part miniseries made for Spanish television, blends fact and fiction in a mockumentary style as it recounts the fate of the once-famous Spanish actor, a former heartthrob whose career hit a major speed bump when he hit middle age.

The diversity of those three movies reflect Trueba’s ability to work in different genres with equal skill. And even though the films are deeply rooted in Spain’s culture and history, Miami moviegoers are familiar enough with the country to appreciate the pictures as fully as their native audiences.

“The audience in Miami is very special,” says Marta Sanchez, director of the Festival of New Spanish Cinema, which is celebrating its fourth year in Miami. “It’s not only because there’s such a huge Latin population: The audience is also very appreciative of art. They ask a lot of questions about the creative process and receive the films warmly. They are very sophisticated moviegoers.”

Chediak, who introduced many Spanish filmmakers to American audiences during his tenure at the festival and when he operated several arthouse cinemas in the 1970s and 80s, believes there is a clear reason why Miami and Spain fit so well together.

“It’s not just that we are a predominantly Spanish-speaking community; it’s also that Spain is the mother country to all Latin Americans,” he says. “In one way or another, all of us Latinos have roots there.”


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