Las Palmas to close with ‘Namesake’

Canary Islands' festival unveils 17 pics in competition

MADRID — The 8th Las Palmas Intl. Film Festival will open March 16 with Robert Altman’s swansong “A Prairie Home Companion,” and close with Mira Nair’s “The Namesake,” both playing out-of-competition.

The Canary Islands’ Las Palmas fest, one of Spain’s up-and-coming film meets, has moved defiantly left-of-center and global with a 17-pic competition, including quirky pics from Thailand to Romania to Cuba.

Potential competish standouts include the theater-set fantasy “Madrigal,” from Fernando Perez, Cuba’s best-known middle-generation auteur, Romanian Radu Muntean’s tense neo-docu “The Paper Will Be Blue,” which follows a militia unit patrolling Bucharest after dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s fall, and father-daughter drama “Luxury Car” from mainland China’s Wang Chao.

Also currying upbeat crits on the fest circuit are Asghar Farhadi’s “Fireworks Wednesday,” an analysis of Iran’s middle class, and two romantic dramedies, Faouzi Bensaidi’s droll take on contempo Casablanca, “WWW, What a Wonderful World,” which drew positive response at Marrakech, and Hong Sang Soo’s admired Berlinale player “Woman on the Beach.”

Casting its competition net far and wide, Las Palmas also showcases Pia Marais’ coming of ager “The Unpolished” from Germany, “The Legacy,” Georgian Gela Babluani’s follow up to the admired “13 (Tzameti),” and Malay cautionary love yarn “Love Conquers All.”

Las Palmas competition also includes “To Get to Heaven First You Have to Die,” from Tajikstani helmer Djamshed Usmonov, which won the Tokyo Filmex Grand Prize last November, Serbian marriage preparations ensembler “Tomorrow Morning” from Oleg Novkovic, and Portuguese Hugo Vieira da Silva’s downbeat drama “Body Rice,” about two young German girls.

Also competing is the opaque hospital-set two-parter “Syndromes and a Century” from Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Tropical Malady”).

Competitors nearest to mainstream cinema are “Half Nelson,” which won lede Ryan Gosling an Oscar nom, and steamy Southern drama “Black Snake Moan,” with Christina Ricci.

Coming straight after the Malaga Spanish Film Festival, Las Palmas has always struggled to attract Spanish pics. But Spaniard Pablo Llorca (“The Scar”) weighs in at Las Palmas with “Uno de los dos no puede estar equivocado,” a love tale involving the devil and a jaded femme war correspondent.

A third Spanish competish contender, the ’60s Canary village-set “La caja” from Canary islander Juan Carlos Falcon, looks destined to prove a fest crowd-pleaser.

Fest runs March 16-24.

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