You'll have hard choices to make next week as competing cinema chains stage competing film festivals – New Spanish Film Week at Paragon Cineplex and the Hong Kong Film Festival at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld – both boasting line-ups of recent award-winning movies.
First up is Paragon's New Spanish Film Week, running from April 26 to May 2. Organized in collaboration with the Embassy of Spain, screenings will be at 7 each night. Admission is free. You'll probably need to look for a table in the cinema lobby to get your ticket. Most of the films, all from the past year or two, were big winners of the Goya Awards (the "Spanish Oscars") and their Catalan counterpart the Gaudi Awards.
Here's the line-up:
- April 26 – Chico and Rita. This Oscar-nominated musical animated feature is set in Cuba in 1948, and follows the romance between the singer Rita and the musician Chico. It won the Goya and Gaudi Awards for best animated feature.
- April 27 – Pa negre (Black Bread). In the post-war Catalan countryside, a boy finds the corpses of a man and his son in the forest and authorities want to pin the blame on the boy's father – so the kid sets about to find the truth, ultimately confronting the monster that lives within him. Winner of several Goya Awards last year, including best director for Agustí Villaronga and best film.
- April 28 – The Primos (Cousinhood). Three cousins revisit the village where they spent their summer vacations in their youth.
- April 29 – The Balada Triste de Trompeta (The Last Circus). It's 1937 in the midst of the Spanish civil war and the circus has come to town. Then, what nobody expected, the circus performers and rounded up and forced to join the fighting. Later, in 1973, the son of the clown from that earlier circus is struggling as the "sad clown" in another circus. It was nominated for multiple Goya Awards and won for makeup and special effects.
- April 30 – Mientras Duermes (Sleep Tight). This Hitchcock-inspired thriller is about a man who's obsessed with a woman who lives down the hall in his apartment building, and he sneaks into her room each night to lie with her and appease his fantasies. It won several Guadi Awards, including best director Jaume Balagueró.
- May 1 – No habrá paz para los malvados (No Rest for the Wicked). This fact-based thriller looks ties into the events leading to the 2004 terrorist bombing in Madrid. José Coronado stars as a burned-out cop involved in a triple murder, who, in the process of trying to cover his tracks, uncovers an Islamist cell planning a terrorist attack.Winner of multiple Goya Awards this year, including best film, best director for Enrique Urbizu and best actor for Coronado.
- May 2 – Blackthorn Sin Destino. This western revisits the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with Sam Shepard stepping into the role made famous by Paul Newman. Here, the ageing criminal mastermind is hiding out in Bolivia and hopes to pull off one last job so he can return to the U.S. It won four Goya Awards this year, including Best Cinematography.
Down the road at CentralWorld, at the SF World Cinema, the Hong Kong Film Festival runs from April 27 to 30, with a line-up of 10 films, many of them critically acclaimed award-winners. Here's the line-up:
- The Beast Stalker – Dante Lam's taut 2008 crime thriller stars Nicholas Tse as a tough cop whose efforts to catch criminal caused a car wreck that left the wanted man in a coma, a fellow officer crippled and a public prosecutor's daughter dead. He's wracked with guilt, and then the criminal wakes up. Nick Cheung also stars.
- Soundless Wind Chime – This gay-themed romance is about a Chinese man who goes to Switzerland in search of the spirit of his dead lover, and he finds a lookalike guy working in an antique shop.
- Accident – Soi Cheang's 2009 crime thriler is about a criminal mastermind known as the Brain (Louis Koo) who stages elaborate traffic wrecks in order to cover up bigger crimes. After one of his accidents goes wrong and kills one of his gang, he becomes suspicious of an insurance investigator (Richie Ren), leading to paranoia and great tension.
- At the End of Daybreak – Actually a Malaysian film (though the producer is from Hong Kong), director Ho Yuhang's sneaking, slow-burn thriller is about a young man looking to escape the burden of living with his alcoholic shopkeeper mother (Kara Hui, who won many awards for this role). He enters into an illicit relationship with a teenage schoolgirl, and runs into conflict with her parents. It screened at the 2010 World Film Festival of Bangkok.
- Echoes of the Rainbow – Alex Law directs this nostalgic comedy-drama set in Hong Kong of the 1960s as seen through the eyes of a child in a family with a working class father, a happy-go-lucky mother and an aspiring, starry-eyed elder brother. Simon Yam, Sandra Ng and Aarif Rahman star.
- Night and Fog – A father becomes full of despair as he's unemployed and becomes increasingly abusive against his wife and daughters. The wife turns to social service agencies for help, but finds no solutions, not even from her own family. Ann Hui directs this 2009 drama, which stars Simon Yam and Jingchu Zhang.
- Breakup Club – An aimless young man (Jaycee Chan) takes up documentary filmmaking after he's dumped by his on-and-off girlfriend, recording his discovery of a magical website that promises to reunite lost loves if they are willing to break up another couple.
- Lover's Discourse – Four love stories are woven together in this omnibus. Each episode is independent of the next yet each is interconnected.
- A Simple Life – Director Ann Hui's fact-based drama has dominated the major Hong Kong and Chinese-language movie awards this season. Deanie Ip stars as a servant who's worked for four generations of a Hong Kong family and is now with the last remaining family member (Andy Lau) when she has a stroke. Giving ever more time and attention to his servants needs and pleasures, the man comes to realize how much she means to him.
- Quattro Hong Kong – Two compilations of four short films each were commissioned for the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2010 and 2011. The first Quattro had films by Hong Kong directors Fruit Chan with The Yellow Slipper, Heiward Mak with We Might as Well be Strangers, Herman Yau with Fried Glutinous Rice and Clara Law and The Red Earth. Quattro Hong Kong 2 from last year was Pan-Asian, with contributions from Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul (M Hotel), Malaysia's Ho Yuhang (Open Verdict), the Philippines' Brillante Mendoza (Purple) and Hong Kong's Stanley Kwan (13 Minutes in the Lives of ...). Six of the eight shorts have been combined for the Bangkok screening, omitting the segments by Ho Yuhang and Law. So it's really Quattro and a Half.
The schedule for this one is a bit trickier, but helpfully, it's been posted at the SF Cinemas website. Tickets are free. Line up a half hour before showtime in the cinema lobby to get them.