Dir: Achero Manas. Spain. 2003. 104mins

Actor-turned-director Achero Manas marks his position as one of the most interesting young filmmakers in Spain with November, but it is unlikely that the film will get him recognition beyond what he gained from his impressive debut Pellet (El Bola). But this well-acted and great looking film about an experimental theatre group in Madrid is too fragmented and caught up in the process of acting, and its high ideas and ideals ultimately fail to make its story and characters engaging. Audiences may also be confused by the use of documentary style interviews. Based on Manas' name and the young attractive cast, the film should do reasonable business in Spain and on the festival circuit, but it seems unlikely it will travel beyond that.

'November is Alfredo' we are told in one of the interviews, which open the film, and Alfredo is a young aspiring actor arriving in Madrid for the first time for an audition at the acting school. Though he is accepted into the school and quickly hooks up with a group of spirited and like-minded actors, it quickly becomes evident that he has a very different view on the profession and wants to start his own company. His kind of theatre aims to liberate the acting from the stage and commercial concerns, and take them out in the streets face to face with the audience.

But the film also carries with it some confusion. The story, set in the late 1990s, is actually the flashbacks of the same characters later in life. In a series of interview scenes, a group of veteran Spanish actors play the same characters, now older and wiser, reflecting back on their experiences as youth. Manas drew inspiration from the experiences of his stage-actor parents and their friends in the 1970s - but it makes one wonder why Manas simply did not simply adapt real-life events. The tragic if predictable finale might be one explanation. Anyway some might find this idea fresh, but it is distracting and fails to add anything to the film.

Manas move from the horrors of child abuse in Pellet to this energetic and idealistic celebration of art as a catalyst for change, proves he has vision and a humanistic message - even if the happenings and ordeals of the actors are hardly new.

Visually he also manages to mix beautiful widescreen images of the Alfredo-story with grainy handheld digital recordings of the performances. These are the best sequences of the film, not least because of the fresh young cast lead by the good-looking Oscar Jaenada in his first main role.

Prod cos: Tesela Producciones Cinematograficas
Int'l sales:
Kevin Williams Associates
Jose Antonio Felez
Acheros Manas, Federico Manas
Juan Carlos Gomez
Nacho Ruiz Capillas
Prod des:
Federico G Cambero
Ricardo Steinberg
Eduardo Arbide
Main cast:
Oscar Jaenada, Ingrid Rubio, Juan Díaz, Javier Ríos, Adriana Domínguez, Hector Alteiro