Tonight, February 7, 2013, is the first night of the 36th Portland International Film Festival, opening with "Blancanieves" (Spain, 2012). This delightful film is the story of Snow White, featuring a feisty Carmen (Macarena García) who is a far cry from the character in the Disney film. Carmen is trapped in her stepmother's villa but is determined to escape and follow her dream to be a bullfighter. Maribel Verdú ("Y Tu Mamá También," "Pan's Labyrinth"), playing the evil stepmother Encarna, pulls out all the stops in order to keep Carmen from her saviors, a band of traveling matadors (who happen to be Little People, and there aren't seven of them). Encarna doesn't ask a mirror if she is the fairest; she seeks her feedback from a celebrity magazine.
This film harkens back to the stark simplicity and beauty of the black and white silent era, paying an homage to European films of that ilk. Black and white film often connotes past times. It also refers the viewer to the feel of film noir and in some ways enhances the sense of good and evil. In the trailer at the end of this article, note the sense of foreboding as young Carmen and Encarna sit across from each other at a long table. They are surrounded by darkness, the scene lit by candles, foreshadowing their fiery relationship to come.
This film is directed by Pablo Berger, born in Bilbao, Spain. He received an MFA from New York University, and his very first feature, "Torremolinos 73" (2003), was a popular film in Spain. "Blanca Nieves" is critically acclaimed, and is the Spanish submission for the Best Foreign Language Film in this year's Oscar ceremonies, to be held on February 24. In addition, the film has received Awards for Best Actress (Macarena García) and Special Jury Prize (Pablo Berger) at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Best Art Direction at the Gaudí Awards and Best Spanish Film at the Fotogramas de Plata. It was the Official Selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and recently was the opening film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
The soundtrack created by Alfonso Vilallongahas also received acclaim, and is peformed by, in part, the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra and world class Flamenco guitarist Juan Gómez "Chicuelo".
Check out the Northwest Film Center's website if you want to purchase tickets for "Blancanieves" and the Opening Night Party. It is screening at the Newmark Theater, located inside the Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway (at Main Street).
For the complete schedule for the 36th Portland International Film Festival, check out the main PIFF website of the Northwest Film Center. Screening over the next 17 days are 92 features and 43 shorts, through February 23.