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Instituto Cervantes director praises Manchester for ¡Viva! Festival’s return to Cornerhouse

By Mel Hughes

Manchester’s Spanish and Latin American Film Festival, ¡Viva!, returns to Cornerhouse next week for it’s 18th year, from March 2 18.

The festival was on the edge of extinction last year after dramatic council cuts threatened to end its run but many fought to save it.

MM spoke to the Cultural Director of Instituto Cervantes, Kepa Gonzalez, in the lead up to the opening gala to find out why the festival is so important.

He said: “I think Viva represents a unique opportunity to see what the Spanish cinema represents which is why so many people fought for it. We did not want to let Viva die.”

Mr Gonzalez, who has been living in Manchester for 15 years, talked of the similarities between the city and his homeland of Bilbao in the Basque Country.

“There has always been a big connection between England and the Basque country.

“If you walk in the streets of Bilbao you might think you are in Manchester sometimes,” he said.

Manchester currently holds the biggest Spanish and Latin American festival in the UK, even larger than London’s, which is due to the accepting nature of people in the North West.

“People in the North of England and in Manchester are really friendly and always give you a warm welcome, the culture is really pleasant,” said Mr Gonzalez.

“I find people very receptive and very happy to learn from other countries and different cultures, whether it’s music, films, art or even dancing,” he added.

Instituto Cervantes co-organises the festival with Cornerhouse. The organisers also include a panel of professors from The University of Manchester and The Manchester Metropolitan University who have a keen interest in Spanish cinema.

They see as many Spanish films as possible and then meet up to discuss which films and exhibitions are the best for the festival. Consideration is also taken to ensure that there is something for everyone so if you’re not sure just ask for a recommendation.

The launch of ¡Viva! takes place next Friday (March 2) and the night begins with a complimentary drink in Gallery 1 of Cornerhouse to inaugurate the new exhibition Landings by Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas, prior to the opening night film gala. Tickets are £8.50 – £10.50.

The director Emilio Aragón will then introduce his debut film Paper Birds. The film is a trip through the history of human civilization and is at the same time a fantasy about events in past and future times that have become part of the public imaginary.

The Cervantes institute offers a range of activities for people and during the time the festival is on they are offering 20% off all classes at the institute. So you can book up for a set of beginner Spanish lessons for 20% less!

Simply pick up a contact card at Cornerhouse or at various other venues around the City Centre and take it into the Instituto Cervantes when booking the class.

Mr Gonzalez said: “We are here to communicate the language and culture of Spanish speaking countries and as well doing different level of classes, salsa, tango, flamenco and we love to do the cultural bit like bringing films over too.”

Instituto Cervantes is the official Spanish Government Centre, it is a public institution which was founded in 1991 to promote Spanish language teaching and knowledge of the cultures of Spanish speaking countries throughout the world.

It has been popular with the people of Manchester since its beginnings and now, with the partnership of Cornerhouse, it hopes to enlighten many more to the delights of Spanish and Latin American culture.

Kepa’s top film recommendations are: Primos (Cousinhood), Pa Negre (Black Bread), Pequeñas Voces (Little Voices) and Open 24hrs. Tickets for the films are priced between £3.00 to £10.50.

¡Disfrutad el festival!

To see the full calendar and buy tickets visit http://www.cornerhouse.org/viva2012.

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