World premiered at the 2001 Sydney Film Festival, this finely textured local feature proudly proclaims its multiculturalism. Subtitles translate the mainly Spanish and Italian dialogue: the film's title - The Spanish Woman in Italian - is itself testimony to the film's mix of cultures and language. This is admirably, even aggressively correct but, while certainly strengthening sales appeal in continental Europe and Latin America, won't boost its chances for wide distribution in Australia and other English-speaking markets.
Set in 1960, high tide of sponsored European migration to Australia, the narrative concerns a dysfunctional Spanish family within a larger Italian community, all struggling to come to terms with a mistrusted and disinterested home population. Unstoppably glamorous Lola (Marceli), known to all as La Spagnola, lives with her straying husband Ricardo (Palomores) and their intense, gawky adolescent daughter Lucia (Ansara) in a bleak fibro hut on the flat, dusty edge of a huge industrial site.
When Ricardo blows the struggling family's biscuit-tin savings on a flash car and moves in with his Australian girlfriend, newly pregnant Lola is full of wild, vengeful rage which she unleashes on her husband's pigeons and pet goat, and on the watchful Lucia, herself coming to terms with a life caught between cultures, between childhood and maturity. After Ricardo is killed in an annoyingly unspecified accident, Lola's warmer-hearted sister Manola (Bartolome) moves in, showing Lucia an altogether brighter side to her Spanish inheritance.
It's the mother/daughter conflict that is the nub of the matter, powerfully portrayed by an anguished, wounded Marceli and a fresh, confused, highly intelligent Ansara - a screen debut of the highest quality. Their love/hate relationship and the poverty, heart and loyalties of such disrupted,expatriated communities is well realised in producer/writer Monticelli's screenplay, though she prefers emotional display to narrative clarity and her conclusion is sudden and underpowered.
Marceli and Bartolome, cast in Madrid, give flamboyant authenticity, while first time feature director (and Monticelli's husband) Steve Jacobs is discretely stylish in the main, though he compensates with some overripe dream sequences and with Bartolome's mastabatory zucchini rumba.
Prod co Wild Strawberries.
Aust/NZ dist NewVision Film Distributors.
Int'l sales Fortissimo Film Sales.
Prod/scr Anna-Maria Monticelli.
Cinematography Steve Arnold.
Prod des Dee Molineaux.
Ed Alexandre de Fanceshi.
Music Cezary Skubiszewski.
Main cast Lola Marceli, Alice Ansara, Lourdes Bartolome, Simon Palomares, Alex Dimitriades.