Still from Champions

Spanish Film Festival Review: Champions

This outstanding comedy from Spain is imbued with humanity and laughs aplenty.

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Winner of Best Film at this year’s Goya Awards, Champions tells the tale of Marco Montez, a top basketball coach who drunkenly crashes into a police car one night. Sentenced to community service, he finds himself having to coach an amateur basketball team, made of people with intellectual disabilities.
Javier Gutiérrez  is outstanding as Marco, imbuing him with warmth and humanity, along with his more annoying characteristics. The team, Los Amigos, consists of actors all of whom have intellectual disabilities. Jesus Vidal is wonderful as Marin, for which portrayal he won the Goya for Best New Actor. Also outstanding is Gloria Ramos as Callentes. But this is primarily a master-class in ensemble acting, and a testament to Javier Fesser‘s incredible direction.

Script by Fesser and David Marques doesn’t miss a beat. On one level this is a predictable story: Marco and the team change each other and become close. Yet in character and dialogue, there is nothing standard. Hilariously funny, the comedy comes from the personalities of the characters, not from the situation. There is not a hint of either condescension or cheap laughs. Javier Fernandez‘s art direction gives the work just the right look, especially in the run-down community centre where the team trains.

Champions is yet another example of what the Spanish do so incredibly well : produce films which are highly commercial, yet never descend into cliche or stereotype.

Champions screens as part of the Moro Spanish Film Festival, currently running at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.

Click here for screening times and further information.

A master-class in ensemble acting, and warm comedy. 5 stars

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