Official Competition brings a mischievous premise worth the admission fee alone: acclaimed director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) is hired to make a prestigious adaptation with two of Spain’s finest actors, the respected theatrical maestro Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez), and the Hollywood darling Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas).

Their chalk and cheese styles clash, and drawing on more than a little meta humour from the cast’s real lives, what follows is a hilarious and provocative interrogation of the value of art.

Such an industry talking point might sound like a bore to anyone who’s not a film fan already, but the script teases out the nuances in a gentle, entertaining way. The film’s structure is essentially a series of sketches through the rehearsal process as Lola, Iván and Félix butt heads in search of their definitive creative vision. The two men clash egos most aggressively, but Lola is far from a maternal bystander. She has her own idiosyncrasies that tilt things in a raucous, absurd direction, including rehearsing a scene under a suspended 5-ton boulder or destroying their awards in an industrial shredder.

By the end, one thing that’s certain is directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s scorn for any artist that takes their work too seriously. As Lola explains in one blunt speech – half the time we can think a film is bad and still like it, or create something we’re proud of that no one watches, so why split hairs?

The direction, and particularly the production design from Alain Bainée, are superb, bringing life to what could be a repetitive sequence of sketches. But the main trio’s performances are the highlight, played to comic perfection and happily sending up their own personas. Official Competition is hilarious, charming, and just might make you think twice about how you watch films.



CAST: Penélope Cruz, Oscar Martínez, Antonio Banderas, José Luis Gómez

DIRECTORS: Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat

WRITERS: Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat, Andrés Duprat

SYNOPSIS: A wealthy businessman hires a famous filmmaker to help make a smash hit film.