Smash hit comedy plays with Spanish stereotypes

A romantic comedy film set in Spain's politically sensitive Basque region has become the country's biggest ever home-grown box office hit, its distributor said on Monday.

Smash hit comedy plays with Spanish stereotypes
Actors Clara Lago and Dani Rovira in the hit Spanish comedy Ocho Apellidos Vascos (Eight Basque surnames): Screen grab: YouTube

Eight Basque Surnames (Ocho Apellidos Vascos) by director Emilio Martínez Lázaro "is the most watched Spanish film with 6.6 million viewers" in cinemas since its release on March 14th, Universal Pictures Spain said in a statement.

Playing with regional stereotypes and Spain's north–south divide, the film treads sensitive ground with the tale of a red-blooded Rafa from Andalusia in Spain's deep south, who comically pretends to be a proud Basque in his efforts to woo a Basque woman, Amaia, on her home turf.

Cautious hopes have arisen in the Basque country after the armed separatist movement Eta in 2011 promised a definitive end to decades of violence there.

Eta is blamed for more than 800 deaths in its armed independence campaign. It is classed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

"If Eta were still killing, this film could not have been made," the director was quoted as saying by El País newspaper.

The film has drawn praise for tackling sensitivities about Basque identity and cultural difference in Spain with a light-hearted touch.

"It does away once and for all with the most alienating stereotypes, at least the ones that have done the most harm," wrote journalist Juan Mari Gastaca in El País newspaper.

Not all coverage of the film has been positive, however.

An earlier review in El País by Jordi Costa criticized the film's poor direction and plot inconsistencies, describing the movie as an "excellent opportunity missed".

The film beat the previous record for the number of tickets sold, set by Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's 2001 horror film "The Others", starring Nicole Kidman.

"Eight Basque Surnames" has taken €38.8 million ($54 million) at the box office, the fourth-biggest takings ever in Spain after "Avatar", "The Impossible" and "Titanic", Universal said.

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‘The Girls’ wins big at Spain’s live-streamed 2021 Goya awards

Pilar Palomero’s debut coming of age film ‘Girls’ was the big winner at the 2021 Goya Awards on Saturday, held via a live-streamed ceremony.

‘The Girls’ wins big at Spain's live-streamed 2021 Goya awards
Antonio Banderas presented the 35th Goya Awards with Spanish journalist María Casado. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The Goyas, Spain’s prestigious annual film awards ceremony, was held at the Teatro del Soho CaixaBank in Málaga. It was a hybrid on-site/virtual ceremony, with no audience nor nominees attending in person.

‘The Girls’, a generation portrait of Spanish women who would now be in their 40s, swept the awards, winning best picture, best new director, best original screenplay, and best cinematography.

Nominees appeared on a large video screen in a Zoom-like setup, and winners accepted prizes from their own homes with their families, giving the ceremony a more intimate feel than usual.

Málaga-born Antonio Banderas directed the ceremony, and other big stars such as Pedro Almodóvar, Penélope Cruz, Paz Vega, and Alejandro Amenábar also made appearances to present the awards.

The non-audience format gave the ceremony, which is broadcast on TV, a larger reach than usual. Celebrities including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, and Isabelle Huppert sent in pre-recorded messages of support.

Just two days before international women’s day, gender issues featured strongly in nominated films and acceptance speeches. Women won almost as much as men, taking 12 categories, and Daniela Cajías became the first woman director of photography to win the best cinematography award for “Girls.”

In other categories, Mario Casas won best actor for “No Matarás” (Cross the Line), about a good-natured man who has an unexpectedly deadly confrontation, and Patricia López Arnaíz won best actress for her role in Ane (Ane is Missing), in which she plays a mother who investigates her daughter’s disappearance.

The Honorary Goya was awarded to actress Angela Molina, who starred in Luis Buñuel’s last film, “The Obscure Object of Desire”.

Last year, Pedro Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical film Pain and Glory was the star of the ceremony, winning seven honours, including best picture, best director, original screenplay, and best actor for Antonio Banderas.