Arts Festival

Falling in love with Rosa

BRA-cups and seams. Rosa (Candela Pena) burning the midnight oil, in Rosa’s Wedding, directed by Iciar Bollain, for the European Film Festival South Africa, online and without charge until 24 October. Photograph by Natxo Martinez, courtesy EUFF.

IF YOU NEED a pick-me-up story that touches on all the bases of being alive and rubbishes traditional values that don’t always have a fairy tale ending in real life, you need to imbibe Rosa’s Wedding. Directed by Icíar Bollaín, this Spanish film is unequivocally, the feisty nectar of this year’s European Film Festival South Africa, which runs until 24 October 2021.

Rosa (Candela Peña) is the third of three adult children. Her siblings have had complicated marriages and lives take themselves seriously. Her sister Violeta (Nathalie Poza) drinks a tad too much. Her brother Armando (Sergi Lopez) eats just a little too much. They consider themselves ‘grown ups’ with responsibilities. It is two years since their mother, a seamstress, died. Their father (Ramon Barea) lives alone and with much sadness, but finds comfort in knowing that Rosa is there for him. As do so many of her friends. Like the quintessential matriarch, Rosa is there when you need her. She will take care of your cat, while you are on holiday. She will undertake to work all night for you, if you slam a late deadline onto her plate at the eleventh hour – and she will do you proud in completing all the work on time. She will look after your plants, your children and oversee workmen in your house. In fact, until a crucial realisation, Rosa is there for everyone. Except, of course, Rosa.

She works in a fashion studio which caters to the theatre fraternity, and often has the onerous task of dressing the extras for a stage wedding. And doing the necessary nips and tucks to keep them looking as perfect as is necessary. While fitting a wedding dress for an actress, she watches that actress rehearse the vows and a light switches on, somewhere deep in her sensibilities. A tale of red tulle and a disused workshop on the coast, this is about the desperate hilarity of being a single mother of twin toddlers, as it is about disinterested parenting and the complex care of the elderly.

Somewhat like the 1989 film Shirley Valentine, Rosa’s Wedding is an essay not only on a woman reaching out to be herself, but on the blithely unaware selfishness of others. Like last year’s Spanish film in this festival, One Careful Owner, the humour is wry and gentle, but also pointed very firmly in the direction of small community dynamics. Also, it is about the social spectacle that something as intimate and private as a wedding is, taking it back to old roots, but with a lick of contemporary self-awareness to them and a peppering of feminist values.

Rosa’s Wedding is beautifully cast and has all that delicious nostalgia of an old haberdashery, with its unused dress patterns and its boxes of dusty buttons, thimbles and doodads and other treasures and trinkets. It is about honouring a late and beloved mother and above all, it is about a woman in her 40s, learning to say ‘no’ for the first time. If you have the time to watch just one of this festival’s films this year, choose this one.

Rosa’s Wedding is directed by Icíar Bollaín and is performed by a cast headed by José Arnau, Ramón Barea, Eric Francés, Xavo Giménez, María José Hipólito, Bruno Gago Ibáñez, Leo Gago Ibáñez, Sergi López, María Maroto, Lucía Oca, Candela Peña, Lucín Poveda, Nathalie Poza, Esther Ramos, Ana Ulloa, Paula Usero and Paloma Vidal. Written by Icíar Bollaín and Alicia Luna with additional dialogue by Lina Badenes, it is produced by Pablo Bossi and Alexandra Lebret and features creative input by Vanessa Garde (music), Sergi Gallardo and Beatriz Sastre (cinematography), Nacho Ruiz Capillas (editing), Déborah Borque and Mireia Juárez (casting) and Giovanna Ribes (production design) and Katarzyna Lewinska (costumes). In Spanish with English sub-titles, it is part of the 8th European Film Festival South Africa, screening online and without cost until 24 October 2021. Bookings are now open.

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