Celebrating Fernando Trueba

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Jessica Berman, Fernando Trueba on stage at MIFF 2013 (Olympia Theater); scene from The Artist and the Model

 [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Reprinted from MIFF 2013’s Commemorative 30th Edition catalogue]

It’s not just that, with The Artist and the Model (El artista y la modelo), Fernando Trueba becomes the first director in MIFF’s history to make a record 10 appearances. The mood and texture of Trueba’s The Artist and the Model reflects upon the scope of a life and career devoted to art. “Art exists to help us understand ourselves,” Trueba has said. The Artist and the Model summarizes Trueba’s philosophy perhaps more than any other film in his oeuvre, making this film and this moment, the precise one to present Fernando Trueba with this Career Achievement Tribute.

“Fernando Trueba… took Spanish-language comedy out of dark ages with [his 1980 debut feature] Opera Prima,” wrote MIFF’s founding programmers, upon the occasion of Fernando’s Miami debut with Bad Taste (Sal gorda) at the very first edition of Miami Film Festival in February 1984. “Bad Taste conclusively shows – in Cinemascope and living color – that a screwball comedy is just a crazy kind of love.”

Two years later, Fernando was back in Miami with Welcome to My Wife (Sé infiel y no mires con quién) at the 3rd annual festival. “At the age of thirty, [Trueba] shuffles farcical characters and situations with the sleight-of-hand of a seasoned croupier,” our programmers wrote. “The classic American romantic comedy as practiced by Leo McCarey, Garson Kanin, Billy Wilder and company may be a thing of the past in its country of origin; but it has resurfaced in Spain thanks to Fernando Trueba.”

Bad Taste (1984), The Year of Awakening / aka The Year of Enlightenment (1986), Belle Epoque (1992)

By 1988, and the 5th edition, Fernando was well on his way to becoming a Miami Film Festival regular.  Miami audiences were treated that year to his Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear-winning El ano de las luces, translated as The Year of Awakening for its Miami festival debut, later re-translated as Year of Enlightenment. “Fernando Trueba has made his first film of maturity,” our programmers wrote that year.  “Trueba transforms a family anecdote into a film that is wise and witty, as might be expected of a gifted disciple of Renoir and Truffaut.”

In 1990, Fernando made a major breakthrough with a departure from his previous work, El sueño del mono loco, a “thinking man’s nightmare” (Miami Film Festival notes), adapted from a novel by Christopher Frank. Working with international stars Jeff Goldblum and Miranda Richardson, the film (first titled in English as The Mad Monkey, then later retitled Twisted Obsession) won Fernando his first Goya Award for Best Director, and marked the first of his films to capture the Goya for Best Film.   

In 1993, everything changed for FernandoBelle Epoque, a masterful, lyrical film that seemed to say everything about the end of an era for the Spanish people, swept the Goyas that year, winning 9 awards including Best Film.  Spain submitted the film to the Academy Awards for the annual Best Foreign Language Film category, and Belle Epoque eventually won the coveted Oscar, only the second time Spain had ever won the category.   For Miami Film Festival, the choice for Opening our 1994 festival was clear: it was the Year of Belle Epoque.  “Director Fernando Trueba,” declared Miami Film Festival, “has made one for the ages.”

Two Much (1995), Calle 54 (2000), The Artist and the Model (2012)

Miami’s affection for Fernando was matched by Fernando’s affection for Miami, for he set and filmed his next film in our Magic City – Two Much, a romantic screwball comedy starring Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and Daryl Hannah.  His first film to be distributed by a Hollywood studio, Touchstone Pictures, Two Much was also a valentine to our city’s beautiful setting – and once again the natural choice for Opening Night, in 1996, as Truebea “becomes Billy Wilder’s worthiest disciple”, Miami Film Festival said.

The seventeenth Miami Film Festival in 2000 entered the new century with a new film from Fernando – his 1999 Goya winner The Girl of Your Dreams, a gorgeous, big-budget with an “ace in the hole… incandescent performance” by Penelope Cruz in the lead role as chief among the film’s “many charms”, our programmers noted. 

The following year, Fernando’s Latin jazz documentary Calle 54 marked the birth of a new phase of his career, focused largely on music, and he was rewarded by MIFF audiences with the Audience Favorite Award in 2001 for the film.

Scene from Chico & Rita (2010); Trueba (r) with Chico & Rita co-director (and MIFF 2012 poster artist) Javier Mariscal

Following a 10 year absence, Fernando triumphantly returned to MIFF in 2011, opening the Festival for a record third time, with his first foray into animated film, the Academy Award-nominated and Goya-winning Chico & Rita, co-directed with famed artists Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando.  “A sensual collision of vibrant colors, passionate storytelling and music from the greatest period of creativity in Cuban-American jazz,” we said then – but really could have been referring to the entire oeuvre of the films of Fernando Trueba.  —Jaie Laplante

THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL opens on Friday, August 29 at MDCulture Art Cinema at Koubek Theater (2705 SW 3rd Street, Miami).  Click here for tickets & showtimes.

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Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.