Official Competition: A Pleasant Surprise

I was fortunate enough to be given tickets to the opening night of the Spanish Film Festival at the Astor Theater down in Windsor last night. From the outside, it seemed like a small venue, but inside is where things looked extravagant. We were greeted with a lovely red carpet and a photobooth open to anyone. Heading upstairs,  we were provided falafels, red wine and a popcorn box to take in if we desired. And the theater itself, sustaining that retro vibe with the tight seats, chipping off paint and endless rows both in the top and bottom sets of booths, and not to mention the gorgeous chandeliers overseeing the large screen on display. Hosting experience was definitely amazing. 

In regards to the trailer, I didn’t see much of the film despite some moments of laughter and conflict between actors but the film proved to be much more than that. Official Competition, directed by Maranio Cohn and Gaston Duprat, starring the talented Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martinez, is a film that shines a light on the joys of acting and explores the processes of an interesting director and behind-the-scenes of how a story comes to life on the screen.

 I’ll keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but it dives into the mindset of this eccentric director, Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz), who brings in two widely different actors to work on her upcoming film, because she believed their unique chemistry would be perfect for the story she was envisioning. Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) is an upcoming Hollywood sensation who is beloved by the public and enjoys his fame and fortune, is set to work alongside Iván Torres (Oscar MartÍnez) who is an older more sophisticated actor who enjoys the art of acting and teaches students acting. 

Both actors are on separate sides of the acting persona, but eventually warm up to each others unique ways of acting whether that be yelling your own name in an empty room or tricks to help cry on the spot. Lola puts them through some strange training exercises which leads them to develop somewhat of an understanding of the importance of the film they are a part of. Moments of joy, fear, humor, love and dedication allow audiences a new appreciation for the effort around filmmaking, so much so that the ending takes a unique twist that no one was expecting. Definitely a good watch, a decent 3.5 stars out of 5 in my books. 

Article written by Nishtha Sharma

Image courtesy of Manolo Pavon/The Mediapro Studio

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