Alberto Rodríguez – La isla mínima AKA Marshland (2014)

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With Unit 7, Alberto Rodriguez paid homage to his native Seville whilst producing a fine urban thriller. Now he does the same for rural Spain, moving an hour south to the marshlands of Andalucia. While 7 was explosive, Marshland is noirishly tense on different levels, its tight focus on character, its realism, it’s sense of place and its social critique adding up to a grippingly intense whole — and that’s not to mention it’s satisfyingly twisting plotline. Though puzzlingly it’s been overlooked by the Spanish Film Academy as the country’s foreign film nomination, Marshland merits international exposure as an example of both one of the year’s best Spanish-language films and of how to fold significance into genre. Continue reading

Alberto Rodríguez – 7 vírgenes AKA 7 Virgins (2005)

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A 48-hour leave from reform school brings life lessons for the teenage protagonist of “7 Virgins,” a street-kids piece that combines energy and delicacy to striking and subtle effect. The best Spanish movie of its type since Fernando Leon’s 1998 “Barrio,” pic rises above genre standard with scrupulous attention to detail and an engaging central tandem. Downsides are lapses into sentimentality and visual deja vu, and an occasional inability to exploit the emotional potential. “Virgins” should snuggle up in plenty of fest beds, with arthouse interest a certainty in Spain-friendly territories.

Sixteen-year-old Tano (Juan Jose Ballesta from “Pellet” and “4th Floor”) is picked up from the Seville reform school by his ultra-taciturn brother Santacana (Vicente Romero), who warns Tano to avoid trouble. But once Tano gets back in touch with his irrepressible buddy, wide-grinning Richi (Jesus Carroza), within minutes, they are on the run in a shopping mall after stealing a wallet to buy a TV set — a wedding-gift for Santacana. Continue reading