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Pa Negre (Black Bread) 

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo

This is the movie that nearly swept the Goya Awards (Spain’s Oscar), and the first film to represent Spain in the race for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2012 that is not spoken in Spanish (the original is in Catalan, but San Antonians will see a version dubbed into Spanish with English subtitles). Yes: the Spanish academy chose it to represent Spain in Hollywood over Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In in yet another chapter of the volatile relationship between the auteur and his country’s film authorities (Almodóvar’s film comes to SA on November 18). Will Pa Negre be nominated? It’s a long shot, but a film worth watching, regardless.

Based on the best-selling 2004 novel by Emili Teixidor (who agreed to give the rights with the condition that Villaronga directed it), Pa Negre is both a realistic account of life in Spain following the Civil War that took Franco to power and a poetic look at country life that at times becomes a ghost story. It is all told from the perspective of the losing side, especially that of 11-year-old Andreu (Francesc Colomer), whose father Farriol (Roger Casamajor) is both persecuted for his political activism and accused of murder.

After Andreu witnesses the death of his best friend, he gradually discovers that life is not exactly as his family has told him. As he realizes the extent of which his parents and those around him had to compromise in order to survive during the war, doubts grow in his heart and he’s essentially left alone. To cope, he follows his father’s advice to use his head but follow his heart. What’s not clear for Andreu is: which of the two should he use first?

Anyone who has lived under totalitarian rule (left or right, it doesn’t matter) will identify with this story. But the acting (and that includes the first-class Spanish dubbing) and cinematography (by Mexico’s Antonio Riestra) do justice to a gripping novel that offers a fresh take on an old topic. In the acting department, Marina Comas (playing cousin Nuria, whose left hand was blown off by a grenade) steals the movie from Colomer, but it is hard to pinpoint the best in a stellar ensemble.

This one-time screening is part of a monthly series of films from Argentina, Chile, and Spain sponsored by Casa de Argentina, Casa de España, and Amigos de Chile. Before the film there will be a brief presentation and afterwards an open conversation about the movie and reception for all those in attendance.

 

★★★ 1/2 (out of 5)

Pa Negre (Black Bread)
Dir. Agustí Villaronga; writ. Agustí Villaronga, Emili Teixidor; feat. Francesc Colomer, Marina Comas, Nora Navas

UTSA Downtown Campus
Aula Canaria
501 W. Durango

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