Returning for a 15th year, the London Spanish Film Festival will play at the Regent Street Cinema in London from 25-29 September. As usual, the programme is packed with UK premieres and a number of the film-makers will be attending screenings for Q&A sessions. In addition to the titles in the main selection, there will also be a chance to look through Catalan and Basque windows to sample the latest views from Spain's outlying regions. It's not quite been possible to see everything on display, so we'll have to content ourselves with merely mentioning Gracia Quejereta's Ola de Crímens/Crime Wave, Koldo Serra's 70 Binladens/70 Big Ones, Dani de la Orden's Litus and Ignacio Salazar-Simpson's study of Real Madrid's stadium, Bernabéu.

This is one of the best LSFF programmes in some time. But there is a slight quibble. In 2006, Isaki Lacuesta released his documentary, La Leyenda del Tiempo/The Legend of Time, about gypsy brothers, Israel and Fransisco José Gómez Romero. LSFF didn't show the film. But, 13 years on, it has programmed the follow-up, Entre Dos Aguas/Between Two Waters, and asks those who caught the original to remember what happened in it and newcomers to pick up the story as best they can. Revealing how the siblings have grown apart and taken some hard knocks along the way, the sequel just about works as a stand-alone item. But how much more fathomable and engaging it would have been if Isra and Cheíto misadventures as young scamps had been shown as part of a double bill.


It might seem odd to compare a comedy set in the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch with a Western based on the story of the Magi. But Santiago Requejo's debut evokes memories of John Ford's 3 Godfathers, a 1948 Technicolor remake of the 1918 silent entitled Marked Men that Ford had drawn from a Peter B. Kyne novella. Comparisons could also be drawn to Coline Serreau's Trois hommes et un couffin (1985) and its American reboot, Three Men and a Baby (1987), as well as Ivan Reitman's Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Kindergarten Cop (1990). 

Frustrated at not being able to find another job after being laid off during the financial crisis, 59 year-old Isidro (Carlos Iglesias) can't understand why nobody values his three decades of experience and achievement. He finds sympathetic ears in Desiderio (Ramón Barea), who has taken to writing romantic fiction to keep himself occupied, and Arturo (Roberto Álvarez), who had hoped to spend his retirement with some grandchildren. Determined to prove that they still have something to offer, the three friends decide to launch their own business. But they soon begin to wonder whether they have made the right choice when the realities of running a nursery for pre-schoolers start to hit home.

While empathising with the millennials who feel deprived of the opportunity to kickstart their lives by the post-Lehman recession, Requejo is keen to highlight the ageism that has rather gone under the radar. With all the talk being about young entrepreneurs, he and co-scenarist Javier Lorenzo take a few satirical pot-shots at the start-up generation and the current business truism that potential is more valuable than accomplishment. The plot is rather predictable and the laughs are pretty gentle. But Iglesias, Álvarez and Barea are splendid and it wouldn't take too big a leap of imagination to see this being remade in Hollywood as a reunion project for Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg. 


Animation for grown-ups has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but it has a new benchmark in Salvador Simó's adaptation of a graphic novel by Fermin Solis. Making bold use of the three-frame system that holds an image one frame longer than the two used in conventional animation, Simó reinforces the sense of surreality that permeates his fascinating reconstruction of the making of Luis Buñuels's 1933 documentary, Las Hurdes.

Despite achieving a certain notoriety through his collaboration with Salvador Dalí on Un Chien andalou (1929) and L'Age d'or (1930), Luis Buñuel (Jorge Uson) lacks the funds to embark upon his next project. Dressed in a nun's habit, he listens to a discussion about subverting reality in a Parisian café. But his luck changes when artist friend Ramon Acin (Fernando Ramos) wins the lottery and, having learned about the impoverished region of Las Hurdes in Extremadura from a Mauricio Legendre book given to him by photographer Eli Lotar (Cyril Corral), Buñuel, Acin and journalist Pierre Unik (Luis Enrique de Tomas) head for Spain to make a documentary in a flashy car that fritters a quarter of their budget.

From the outset, Buñuel and his benefactor have very different ideas of how to approach the task and Simó and co-writer Eligio Montero examine the conflict of creativity in relation to the documentarist's dilemma of whether their first duty is to record or interpret truth and how far they should interfere to capture their desired reality. Artfully blending Arturo Cardelús-scored clips from Las Hurdes to contextualise scenes depicting the brides-to-be ripping the heads off live chickens, a dead child lying in the street and a goat tumbling from a mountain ledge, Simó uses troubed childhood memories and Dalíesque nightmares to probe Buñuel's mindset, as he abandons Surrealism to embrace his own distinctive style. Dramatically intriguing and visually audacious, this deserves a theatrical release. 


Inspired by the relationship between painter Isidre Nonell and his gypsy muse, Consuelo Jiménez, Silvia Quer's period drama was made for television rather than the big screen. As scripted by Margarita Melgar, however, it has an intimacy that reinforces the echoes of Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread (2017) and László Nemes's Sunset (2018) generated by its setting. 

Having been raised in an orphanage, Consuelo Deulofeo (Elena Martín) seizes the opportunity when she is mistaken for a seamstress and offered a job at the Barcelona department store, El Siglo. It's 1919 and the city is riven with class divisions and tensions, as strikers and criminal gangs roam the streets. Yet it's also a time of great artistic innovation, as Isidre Nonell (Julio Manrique), Juli Vallmitjana (Javier Beltrán) and Joaquim Mir (Sergio Caballero) put their own spin on Impressionism to capture the realities of everyday life. Forced to fend for herself in the charitable hostel run by nuns, Consuelo is an independent spirit. But she keeps confronting prejudice, both at work and in her bid to discover whether Nonell is her father. 

Handsomely designed by Irene Montcada and photographed by David Valldepérez with a sheen that doesn't always feel appropriate for the material, this superior teleplay offers fascinating insights into the mood of Barcelona in the years before the Civil War. It also reveals the struggle that young women had to be taken seriously in a highly conservative patriarchal society that had little time for nascent concepts like feminism. Elena Martín copes capably with playing mother and daughter, while she is admirably supported by Nora Navas, as her boss, Clara Morgadas, and by Bruna Cusí as Teresa Pou, the impoverished childhood friend who lends Consuelo her identity papers for a cut of her wages, as gypsies are not allowed to work at such an august institution as El Siglo.


There's a novel feel to this feature, which has been directed by members of the fourth year group at the ESCAC (Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia). For the record, the participating students are Marcel Alcántara, Júlia de Paz, Sara Fantova, Guillem Gallego, Celia Giraldo, Alejandro Marín, Valentin Moulias, Pol Vidal, Enric Vilageliu, Carlos Villafaina and Gerard V. Cortés. However, credit must also go to supervising director Sergi Pérez (The Long Way Home, 2014), who has somehow ensured that the contribitions of 17 writers, 10 art directors, 10 cinematographers, nine editors and six sound designers blend reasonably seamlessly.

The narrative centres on 30 year-old Catalan lawyer, Eli (Aina Clotet), who is expecting her first child. She is also about to hear witness statements in a major court case when she receives news that her bigshot lawyer father has disappeared. Desperate to find him, but also keen not to miss a deadline that could shape her career, Eli rushes around Barcelona and uncovers a series of increasingly disconcerting family secrets that not only impinge upon the trial, but also on everything that she has ever believed about her well-heeled and influential family. 

Keeping the camera moving to convey Eli's sense of bewilderment, as she is swept along by each new revelation, this feels like a speeded up variation on José Luis Guerín's In the City of Sylvia (2007). However, this is a much more sinuous and sinister saga that makes evocative use of the city locations and the fact that Aina Clotet was actually pregnant when the film was made. Given the number of directors involved (with each being responsible for a specific segment), this is a remarkably coherent picture. For all the ingenuity, however, and the evident influence of the Dardennes and such Romanian new wavers as Cristi Puiu and Christian Mungiu, this doesn't always avoid cliché or contrivance. But, while it may not be particularly involving as a thriller, it atones with its visual panache. 


One of the reasons why Harold Ramis's Groundhog Day (1993) works almost in spite of itself is the simplicity rather than the ingenuity of the writing. In his debut feature, Jon Mikel Caballero keeps complicating matters, with the result that the audience becomes frustrated with an otherwise genial heroine caught in a time loop. He devises a neat twist to increase the sense of jeopardy, but the sketchy characterisation renders it difficult to invest in a narrative with nowhere to go. 

Keen to celebrate turning 30 with her friends, Alba (Iria del Rio) books a country retreat for the weekend to get away from living with her parents. In addition to her boyfriend of three years, Pablo (Adam Quintero), couples Sira (Nadia de Santiago) and Mancha (Adrián Expósito) and Claudia (Irene Ruiz) and Mark (Jimmy Castro) turn a blind eye to the fact that Alba has rented lodgings with no running water, as she is returning to a place that holds special childhood memories. They cook dinner and engage in a drunken game of charades before turning to karaoke. But Alba's night stops dead in its tracks when Pablo announces that he is breaking up with her because he needs more time. That is exactly what Alba doesn't have, however, when she begins repeating the day over again, with each iteration being an hour shorter than the last. 

With her five companions oblivious to the situation after being miraculously frozen in time, Alba initially tries to fathom ways of preventing Pablo from dumping her. Eventually. however, she starts making more acute use of her diminishing time, as she conducts a few experiments and reflects upon her past. It helps that Del Rio is such an empathetic performer and is able to carry the premise without risking Alba's fragility. But Caballero's script lacks depth, while the tactic of narrowing the film frame to heighten the sense of time elapsing feels more like a stylistic tic than a legitimate diegetic device. 


The `family secret' documentary has ventured into some disturbing territory over recent years, with directors dishing the dirt on loved ones who have been involved in everything from bigamy and domestic abuse to drug dealing and people trafficking. But, in teaming with Cristóbal Fernández, Ana Schulz seeks to expose fhe bosom buddy who betrayed her father in this slippery documentary - whose title transates as `shedding the skin' - that isn't above indulging in a few dark deceptions of its own. 

At the height of Spain's conflict with the Basque separatist group, ETA, Juan Gutiérrez (as head of the Gernika Gogoratuz Peace Research Centre) was one of the leading negotiators attempting to broker a peace deal. Throughout the 1990s, Gutiérrez's closest ally was Roberto Flórez, a journalist who became such a regular visitor to the house in his capacity of communications adviser that Schulz became fixated on her father's confidant. However, Flórez was employed by the Centro Superior de Información de la Defensa and had been given orders following the 1991 Basque summit in the United States to keep Gutiérrez under constant surveillance and report any intelligence that he might let slip to Minister of the Interior, Jaime Mayor Oreja. Even when Flórez's activities were rumbled following his sudden disappearance to an assignment in Peru in 1997, Gutiérrez refused to break the bond of their friendship and Schulz sets out to discover who Flórez really was and why her father declined to disown or judge him. 

In addition to examining the nature of friendship, goodness, loyalty and the art of deception, Schulz also chronicles the Basque struggle for independence and the role that Gutiérrez played in attempting to reach a peaceful settlement. Opening with a dramatic shot taken from inside a cable car in Madrid, this is very much an act of high-wire film-making, as Schulz and Fernández not only delve into murky diplomatic recesses, but also into deeply personal memories of an elusive charmer, who would be sentenced to nine years' imprisonment in 2010 for passing secrets to the Russias. In equal parts an exposé, a thriller and a daughter's paean to a trusting father, this is slick, shocking and compelling. 


How can a film that opens with a caption reading `Chapter 2' not intrigue? The problem with Jaime Rosales's sixth feature, however, is that his twisting study of artistic temperament and family ties becomes less interesting as the complications mount up. Having earned a reputation for arthouse intensity with The Hours of the Day (2003), Solitary Fragments (2007), Bullet in the Head (2008), The Dream and the Silence (2012) and Beautiful Youth (2014), Rosales declared that this picture would be markedly more accessible. Yet, while he and co-writers Michel Gaztambide and Clara Roquet have created some compelling characters, the melodramatic meandering of the storyline too often feels like high-class soap opera.

Following the death of her mother, Julia (Petra Martínez), Petra (Bárbara Lennie) enrols on a study course with the internationally acclaimed sculptor, Jaume Navarro (Joan Botey). She is welcomed by Teresa the houseleeper (Carme Pla), but receives a frostier reception from the maestro's watchful wife, Marisa (Marisa Paredes). Petra is immediately attracted to Jaume's photographer son, Lucas (Alex Brendemühl), who is forever being upbraided by his demanding and self-absorbed father. However, Petra resists Lucas's attempts at seduction, as she believes that Jaume was Julia's lover. When he denies being Petra's parent, she embarks upon a passionate romance with Lucas. But not all of the family secrets (or lies) have been revealed and, following a death that brings Teresa's husband and son - Juanjo (Chema del Barco) and Pau (Oriol Pla) - into the equation, Petra begins to wonder what she had got herself into. 

Echoes of Greek tragedy reverberate around this non-linear saga, which begins so promisingly that the drift into inconsequentiality feels even more frustrating. Hissing out some stinging one-liners as the tyrannical genius, 77 year-debutant Joan Botey makes a doubly significant contribution, as he is also the owner of the magnificent house that provides the setting for Hélène Louvert's camera to glide around with prying elegance. After a while, however, the repeated slow pans designed to remind the viewer of the world beyond the frame become something of an irritant, as does Kristian Selin Eidnes Andersen's a cappella vocal score. Bárbara Lennie holds the piece together, as the vulnerable, if novelettish heroine, while Marisa Paredes provides typically astute support. As for Rosales, he departs from the measured austerity that has become his trademark. But his more auteurish touches rather draw attention to themselves. 


Scripted reality works much better on television than it does in cinema and Diana Toucedo's efforts to tag a narrative on to her study of daily life in the Galician hill village of O Courel detract from what would otherwise have been a compelling documentary. Six years in the making, this is clearly a labour of love that draws on folkloric tradition and the rhythms of the yearly cycle to reflect on a disappearing past and the glimmers of hope for the future. 

Teenage classmates Alba Arias and Samuel Vilariño are among the 30 children resident in the northern village of O Courel. During one lesson, they work together on a story and Alba displays a lively imagination as she ruminates upon the spirits that haunt the quiet streets. The pair find a house that has been empty since 1996 and rummage through the items that have been left behind. Meanwhile, a chicken is prepared for the pot (in a leisurely sequence that recalls Delphine Seyrig peeling potatoes in Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, 1975) and a wild boar is hunted in the surrounding scrubland. Headstones are also scrubbed in time for All Souls' Day. But the mood in the village changes when Alba goes missing and a search party heads out into the night carrying torches. 

This is by far the most potent sequence in a genteel observation that reflects on everything from tradition and memory to perseverance and preservation. Interested in every aspect of village life, Toucedo is ably abetted by cinematographer Lara Vilanova, editor Ana Pfaff and sound editor Silvia Masdeu. But, despite the audiovisual immersion, the plotline involving Alba and Samuel meanders and often becomes indistinct, as Toucedo lingers on quotidian rituals and picturesque vistas. It's impossible not to be daunted by the air of melancholy that hangs over a depopulated community that appears to be heading towards extinction. But the fictional aspects feel rather intrusive and stage managed, with Alba's sing-song voiceover being too self-consciously dotted with symbolic allusions about the inhabitants and their environs. 


The name Pedro Pubill Calaf won't mean much to the average British moviegoer and only a handful will recognise his stage name, Peret. But Paloma Zapata seeks to broaden the appeal of this pioneering Romani singer, who was dubbed `the King of Rumba' because of his inspired fusion of flamenco with the rhythms of Latin America and rock`n'roll. However, Hispanic cinephiles may recall Peret's contrbution to Francisco Rovira Beleta's Oscar-nominated dance drama, Los Tarantos (1963), a variation on Romeo and Juliet starring Antonio Gades and Carmen Amaya that was set in Barcelona's gypsy enclave. 

Born in 1935 and raised in the El Raval district of Barcelona, Peret worked as a carpenter and a salesman while refining the `rumba Catalana' style he would help popularise with Antonio `El Pascailla' Gonzalez. Recording from 1963. Peret became one of Spain's most beloved entertainers after he started appearing regularly on television. Three years after his biggest hit, `Borriquito', he was coerced into singing `Canta y sé feliz' at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, which just happened to be won by ABBA's `Waterloo'. In 1982, he quit showbiz to become a preacher with the Iglesia Evangélica de Filadelfia. However, he returned in a blaze of glory to perform `Gitana hechicera' at the closing ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 

Despite sharing the spotlight with Pérez Prado and Elvis Presley, Peret had his ups and downs, as his distinctive sound went out of fashion following the restoration of the monarchy in 1975. Shrouded in contradictions, he also faced criticism when he left his wife of 51 years for a 19 year-old Brazilian. Yet Peret remaind an icon to his death in 2014 and Zapata traces his career with evident affection. With some of the biggest names in Spanish music paying their respects, this should prove a nostalgic delight for expats. But it also makes an accessible introduction to the man and his music and is bound to get toes tapping.