Witching And Bitching
Marshland, widely available on VoD, including YouTube and Google Play
This oppressive and impressive noir-inflected thriller from Alberto Rodríguez sees two mismatched cops hunt a serial killer in the Guadalquivir marshlands of southern Spain. Like many recent Spanish films, this is embedded in the sociopolitical landscape of post-Franco life, where dictatorship and democracy are still clashing against one another. The cast runs strong and deep, with Raúl Arévalo - who won a Goya for his efforts - and Javier Gutiérrez as a naive young cop and his hardened old partner, while the likes of Antonio de la Torre provide strong support. Rodríguez's, sadly not nearly as good, follow-up Smoke And Mirrors is also available on Netflix.
Yuli, widely available on VoD, including YouTube, Chili and Amazon Prime
Emotions take centre stage in Icíar Bollaín's biopic of Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta. Her film, written by her partner and regular Ken Loach collaborator Paul Laverty, charts Acosta's reluctant acceptance of his ballet talent, as he rose from the breadline in rural Cuba to become, among other things, the first black principal of The Royal Ballet and its first black Romeo - with archive footage of this nicely worked into the fabric of the film. Dance sequences allow Bollaín to explore abstract emotions, including fear and loneliness. Bollaín's back catalogue - celebrated at last year's Edinburgh Film Festival - is wide and varied and films including The Olive Tree (free on Amazon Prime) are also available on VoD. Read what Icíar Bollaín and Paul Laverty told us about the film.
Witching & Bitching, Shudder, iTunes
If you like your humour as black as pitch and served with a side order of comic book violence, then the back catalogue of Basque director Álex de la Iglesia could well be for you. He really thinks big with this story of three men who go on the run after a heist - to which they all arrive in glorious fancy dress - goes south. Starting from a point of farce and ramping up from there, the grousing men find themselves facing off against a trio of witches intent on reclaiming the Earth from men. The balance between humour and violence varies considerably from film to film with de la Iglesia, if you like more of the former, check out My Big Night and if you prefer more of the latter, then The Bar should do the trick. Both on Netflix.
Truman, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube
Barcelona director Cesc Gay proves that not all films about terminal cancer have to be a wallow in sentiment with this thoughtful dramedy. It stars Spanish-language superstars Ricardo Darín and Javier Cámara as old friends Julián and Tomás, charting what happens when Tomás pays a surprise visit to his old and dying friend. Not that you'd notice the dying bit at first glance, because Julián is still grabbing life by the scruff of the neck, even as he grieves what he is about to leave behind. Truman is Julián's dog and very much a star in his own right, acting as an unforced metaphor for the theme of loss. Gay's next film - currently shooting - is called Sentimental - I suspect it will be anything but.
The Candidate, Now TV or to rent on most platforms
When it comes to distinctive modern Spanish voices, Rodrigo Sorogoyen is one of the best. This film - which was also known on the festival circuit under the alternative English title The Realm - took home the Best Directing and Best Screenplay Goyas, along with the Best Actor and Supporting Actor gongs for Antonio de la Torre (yes, it's that man again) and Luis Zahera. De la Torre plays a politician on the verge of the big time whose corruption is about to come to light. Sorogoyen - whose May God Forgive Us is also well worth seeking out - knows how to ratchet up and maintain the tension and is helped enormously by de la Torre's intense central performance. Although the politics are very Spanish, they strike a chord concerning corruption anywhere.
Summer 1993, Now TV, Sky Cinema and to rent on most VoD platforms
This autobiographical film from Carla Simón is a celebration of childhood resilience in the face of grief. It tells the tale of six-year-old Frida, who finds herself uprooted from her Barcelona home after she is orphaned by the death of her mum. Moved to the countryside with her aunt and uncle, we see the world through Frida's eyes as she tries to adjust to the new landscape, while her grief bubbles up in unexpected ways. Simón captures the 'nowness' of childhood, where everything seems to happen in the moment and religion and magic can easily co-exist. Laia Artigas is a real find in the central role and a name to look out for in the future.
Galician filmmaker Lois Patiño's short film is a meditation on the history of the people and the landscape of his home region, which he also explored in his feature debut Coast Of Death. This experimental film is shot as a colour negative, so that figures which would be obscured by the darkness glow against a backdrop of dark purples and greens. The emphasis is on stillness and natural elements - from the breath of the smugglers on the Spanish/Portugal border whose tale is related, to the wind in the trees and rain splashing on a river. A ghostly reflection that makes good use of its unusual technique.