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One Flew Over The Basketball Ring: Campeones At The Spanish Film Festival

For film aficionados, the Spanish Film Festival, Pelicula, is always something to look forward to; as it’s a bountiful showcase of the latest in Hispanic cinema. To their credit, over the years, Instituto Cervantes has expanded the concept of the festival, so beyond such illustrious names as Bunuel and Almodovar, the festival is now inclusive to the likes of Del Toro, Cuaron, Innaritu, and Bayona—film directors who had their starts working in Spanish-speaking films.

This year’s 17th edition runs from October 4 to 14, with Greenbelt 3 as the major home to the festival; and some breakout theatres participating in the QC area. And you’ll have to refer to the website to see the selection of films and their schedule.


To open the Festival, Director Javier Fesser was present to introduce his film, Campeones—coincidentally, it’s Spain’s official entry for the Oscars Best Foreign Film this year—where it will compete with the likes of our Signal Rock to make the final cut of nominee films. A brilliant comedy drama, Campeones takes the old trope of underdog team galvanised by an outsider coach, but levels it up by taking us to unexpected places. If most of these films were about ordinary people thrust into challenging situations, Campeones does the inverse–gifting us with mentally challenged individuals thrust into ordinary situations.


Marco (Javier Gutierrez) is a volatile assistant coach of a major league Spanish basketball team. With anger management issues, he finds himself both fired from the team and involved in a hilarious road accident. To avoid jail time, he’s offered community service with a neighborhood sports facility, where there’s a basketball team composed of mentally challenged adults. A second strand narrative centres on his relationship woes with his girlfriend that sees him end up boarding with his mother—one of the scene stealers in the film, every scene with this deadpan mom is a gem.

Fesser is brilliant is not resorting to actors to play the team members with mental disabilities—and he allows each of the team members to create their individual impression; as we’re shown how different their disabilities are, and the diversity of their capacity to socially engage. The film also doesn’t flinch in showing how us ‘normals’ often treat these people with mental disabilities; the prejudices we have and the impatience and stigma we have when we have to interact with them.

And rather than go to cliche endings or resolutions, Fesser constantly pulls the rug from under us, to keep us on our toes. Sure, a stable of mental deficients have been portrayed in several Hollywood films over the decades, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest just one that comes to mind. But there’s a brio and energy to how Fesser handles the material to make this different enough, and rewarding. There’s one more screening of Campeones on Saturday 4:30 at Greenbelt 3. Very much worth seeking out and watching.


Lead images from Instituto Cervantes