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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | December 7, 2021

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Spanish Film Festival Review: Ma ma

Spanish Film Festival Review: Ma ma

| On 24, Apr 2016

Penélope Cruz gave the performance of her career in ‘Ma ma’ a heartbreaking yet surprisingly light-hearted film. Chronicling the cancer diagnosis of Magda (Cruz), the film detailed how she sees the disease as a means of truly starting to live her life and how her new vitality for life touches and influences the people around her.

From Director and writer Julio Medem (‘A Room in Rome’ 2010, ‘Sex and Lucia’ 2001) comes a unique, raw and honest portrait of a woman’s life fuelled by challenge, complicated by love and enriched by family. Medem’s films and narrative style commonly explore their characters’ experiences in regards to love while their highlighted sub-conscious thoughts offer a portal to their concealed emotions. In ‘Ma ma’, Medem reteams with Lucia’s cinematographer Kiko de la Rica and continues to utilise the camera as more than an observation device with key imagery speaking on many metaphorical levels.  Medem has also played with the film’s structural form to create a poeticism, switching between balanced corresponding imagery and sometimes contrasting sound to relay one’s thoughts against actions, their behaviours to the story’s development provide exposition to important details.


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Known as a filmmaking chameleon, Medem’s extensive filmic catalogue covers a wide range of themes and genres in a way to decode the language of cinema. In ‘Ma ma’ Medem masterfully weaves dramatic and comedic beats that the film’s cast executes perfectly. He showcased some pressing issues such as a rising unemployment rate and ripple effects of an economic crisis, sexual identity and strength of faith affecting contemporary Spain without alienating or preaching. The resultant appeal goes beyond any language, culture or societal boundaries as the voice of these struggles in this film can relate to many.

Magda knows about loss after a failed marriage. After learning of her illness. After seeing a man lose his family. What makes her unique and also quirky is how she won’t let loss define her, taking unexpected twists, her humour gives her strength. She only allows herself to be vulnerable in her quietist moments where she actively banishes reality. Penélope Cruz’s passion for the project was clearly evident in her performance but also extended to her producing credit.


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‘Ma ma’ had some standout supporting performances from Luis Tosar, who played Magda’s devoted and loving partner, Arturo, who struggles for God’s approval of his homosexual tendencies; Asier Etxeandia as Magda’s daytime gynaecologist and night-time personal serenade; Teo Plannell as Magda’s football-mad young son who struggles with his mother’s diagnosis and Anna Jiménez as Natasha – the fantasy and visual representation of Magda’s hope for something better.

‘Ma ma’ is the perfect example of Spanish filmmaking, acknowledging Spain’s artistic heritage and drive for quality, diversity, drama, music, passion, love and, of course, a little football and bringing insight to this culture to Australian screens.

For Palace Cinema’ screening times click here.

For more information about the Spanish Film Festival click here.

 Image Credits: Spanish Film Festival, imdB