3 to see at LFF if you like... Spanish-language films

Maria Delgado recommends three hot tickets at the BFI London Film Festival: a film by an established director, a great debut and a wild card.

3 September 2019

By Maria Delgado

The new film from an established director…

Death Will Come and Shall Have Your Eyes (Vendrá la muerte y tendrá tus ojos)

Death Will Come and Shall Have Your Eyes (2019)

What’s it about?

Taking its title from Cesare Pavese’s celebrated 1950 poem, written only a few months before the writer killed himself, this is a love story between two women, Ana and María, who decide to make some changes to their lives when one of them receives a terminal diagnosis.

Who made it?

José Luis Torres Leiva is one of the best kept secrets in Latin-American cinema – a Chilean filmmaker, editor and cinematographer with 20 films to date as writer-director, including shorts, features and documentaries. His debut feature, El cielo, la tierra y la lluvia (The Sky, the Earth and the Rain) won the Fipresci award in Rotterdam (2008); it signalled a cinematic style that has prioritised lean, visual filmmaking and a remarkable Lucrecia Martel-like attention to sound. 

What’s special about it?

This is a film about life and death, about the decisions we take when we are facing the loss of loved ones and what it means to think about separation after years of togetherness. Torres Leiva isn’t afraid to handle life’s big questions, but he does so with understated humility, an eye for the details of the women’s lives and a remarkable understanding of how human lives relate to the wider environment.

This emotionally wrenching film, rooted in two deeply moving performances from A Fantastic Woman’s Amparo Noguera and Torres Leiva regular Julieta Figueroa, offers cinematic poetry and an uplifting faith in the power of storytelling.

See this if you like…

In Vanda’s Room (Pedro Costa), Cría cuervos (Carlos Saura), Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman)

The breakthrough…

A Thief’s Daughter (La hija de un ladrón)

A Thief’s Daughter (2019)

What’s it about?

Sara is trying to bring up her small baby, get her younger half-brother out of care, win back her ex and keep her father out of her life. Not easy when you have little money and need to work at whatever you can find to make ends meet.

Who made it?

Belén Funes is known for some highly distinctive shorts, including Sara a la fuga (Sara on the Run, 2015), a double prize winner at the Málaga Film Festival. That film served as the starting point for A Thief’s Daughter, her debut feature, which is playing in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival. 

What’s special about it?

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” states Leo Tolstoy at the opening of Anna Karenina, and the unhappiness of the different elements of Sara’s family produces gripping narrative drama in A Thief’s Daughter. It’s a film about dependence and resentment, about what constitutes family, as well as a portrait of a nation emerging from the horrors of a 12-year economic crisis.

Sara Fernández gives a visceral performance as a young woman battling the obstacles in her path with a unique sense of purpose. This is raw, committed filmmaking that gives voice to those who are so often positioned at society’s margins.

See this if you like…

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach), The Florida Project (Sean Baker)

The wild card…

Maternal (Hogar)

What’s it about?

When an Italian nun, Sister Paola, arrives at a convent in Buenos Aires to take her vows, two teenage mothers – the wild, restless Lu and the more reserved Fatima – respond in very different ways to the alternative form of maternal support that she seeks to provide.

Who made it?

Maternal is the first feature by documentary filmmaker Maura Delpero (Teachers, 2008; Nadea and Sveta, 2012). Winner of a special mention at this year’s Locarno Film Festival, it draws on her four years of experience teaching filmmaking in a centre for teenage mothers in Buenos Aires.

What’s special about it?

There is something heartbreaking about this accomplished first feature. The narrative economy, the focus on what remains unsaid, and the shifting relationships between the three protagonists all combine to provide a remarkable portrait of a ‘home’ cut off from the outside world.

Using a still camera and opting for an exquisite symmetry in her visual composition, Delpero captures the unique ecology of this enclosed space – both prison and refuge. Debut performers – Agustina Malale and Denise Carrizo – are terrific as the teenage mothers, and Maternal is a remarkable reflection on motherhood that achingly conveys the emotional journeys of its three protagonists.

See this if you like…

The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel), Summer 1993 (Carla Simón)

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