The Latin American and Spanish Film Festival comes to an end this Saturday with the showing of 2016 Ecuadorian coming-of-age drama Alba, followed by wacky Shakespearean comedy Miguel and William from Spain.
Alba is the first feature film from up-and-coming young director Ana Cristina Barragán. A film that is both tender and heart-rending, we follow the fortunes of 11-year-old Alba who faces the nightmare of a sick mother, coping with her oblivious peers and a father she scarcely knows.
Young leading actress Macarena Arias fills every shot with the shyness and uncertainty that is pre-adolescence, using a minimum of dialogue to devastating effect.
Barragán says she wanted to make an honest film, free of pretension, so there are no easy fixes in the story or characters.
Hollywood Reporter's Jonathan Holland called it a "beautifully understated study of multiple growing pains".
"Given that she's playing a character who is all about isolation and solitude, Arias' performance (she is present in every scene) is amazingly communicative, and it's not just about the expressiveness of those large doleful eyes, or the frailty of a body that seems to want to shy away from all human contact, it's about how well she has been directed by Barragán for the nuances."
Romantic comedy Miguel and William could not be more different.
In this flippant and exuberant portrayal of a possible connection between literary greats William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, actors fight, love, swoon and spout poetry.
Passionate Leonor rejects her despondent English lover William to return to Spain and marry a rich old duke.
But then she meets Miguel, William arrives to reclaim her, and things get way more complicated.
With ravishing cinematography and plenty of references and in jokes for those familiar with the works of these two giants of literature, the 2007 film has more than a few similarities to John Madden's Shakespeare in Love.
Stephen Warbeck, who won the 1999 Oscar for Best Original Music Score for that film, provides an equally imaginative and flamboyant score for this one.
Veteran actress Geraldine Chaplin surprises with an outstanding chestnut performance as Leonor's nurse.
Director Inés Paris, who received a Goya for Best New Director, keeps her tongue firmly in cheek, fantasises out loud and is determined to show the audience a good time.
The film is bilingual, so is a fitting movie to end a festival that was organised by the Whanganui Hispanic Arts Group to bring English and Spanish speakers together.
Alba screens at 4pm and Miguel y William screens at 7pm on Saturday 11 November at the Davis Lecture Theatre, Whanganui Regional Museum, Watt St.
Entry to both films is free, koha appreciated.