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Watch a Spanish film (and plant a tree)

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 02, 2023 5:00 am

Amazingly, Pelikula, the annual Spanish film festival created in 2002 by Instituto Cervantes de Manila, never went away—not even during the pandemic. They just shifted online and kept holding their showcase of Spanish films and critically acclaimed directors and works from Spain and Ibero-American countries.

As its director, Dr. Javier Galvan Guijo, pointed out in a presscon held at Shangri-La Plaza’s Red Carpet Theater, the mission of Instituto Cervantes de Manila was too important to put on hold: “We are proud to have continued nonstop. It was a challenge and an opportunity. All of our Spanish language classes went online as well.”

Cinemalaya 2022 short film winner Hinakdol will be included.

He noted that “Filipinos are the Latinos of Asia. We share a past. So this is not just a Spanish film festival, but a festival of films in Spanish.” This year’s 22nd edition features 27 films from Spain, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentine and Mexico, and a short film from Manila (Hinakdal, which won the Audience Choice Award at this year’s Cinemalaya), as well as cartoon features, historical and political dramas and rom-coms, and even a few movies about… trees.

Yes, trees come up in several films, including El Olivo, about a young chicken farmer who endeavors to retrieve a 2,000-year-old olive tree taken from her grandfather 20 years ago and set up in a Dusseldorf corporate lobby.

Nature-themed films like Alcarràs are part of the festival’s tree-planting project in Tinay, Rizal.

The movies about trees tie in with Pelikula en Verde, a special collaboration this year with Haribon Foundation and Acciona, a Spanish infrastructure company with its Asian base in Manila, which will plant one tree in the Philippines for every patron of their environmentally-themed films this year. If 100 people watch El Olivo, for instance, that’s 100 trees planted. Other films tied to the program are Alcarràs (2023), Bestas (2022), Fonos (2021) and Tierra (1996). The trees for this particular project will be planted in Tanay, Rizal.

A tribute to director Carlos Saura highlights Pelikula 2023 (Shown: Embrujo)

Another main section this year will feature filmmaker Carlos Saura, who passed away at age 91 this year. His daring work is often included alongside Spanish masters Luis Bunuel and Pedro Almodovar, and his films Embrujo, Goya en Burdeos and El Rey de todo el mundo will be showcased.

Dr. Guijo said part of Pelikula’s role is “to prompt Spaniards and Filipinos to work together in cinema, to come up with co-productions, to have Spanish actors here, Filipino actors in Spain, Filipino filmmakers in Spain.” Thus Filipino short films are often included as “a gesture to our Filipino friends.” He mentioned a Filipino-produced film (Porque) being shown at San Sebastian Film Festival this year.

Insitituto Cervantes de Manila director Dr. Javier Galvan Guijo

Selected films will continue to be shown online as well, including in Australia and Singapore. All cinema screenings at Shangri-La Plaza are free, on a first-come, first-served basis; all films are in Spanish (or their original language) with English subtitles. Viewers can also vote for their favorite films during the Audience Choice Awards, with the winning film screened on the last day of Pelikula, Oct. 15.

Pelikula 2023 is a project of Instituto Cervantes and Shangri-La Plaza, in collaboration with the Embassies of Spain in the Philippines, Australia, and Singapore, the AECID, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Filmoteca Española, the Embassy of Colombia and the Embassy of Mexico, with the participation of the Embassy of Chile, the Embassy of Argentina, and Haribon Foundation, and sponsored by Vibal Foundation, Acciona, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Arthaland, SSI Group, Inc., Barcino, La Latina and Fundador.

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For a full listing of screenings and titles visit or the Facebook page of Instituto Cervantes de Manila and on Instagram.