Good Food and Wine Show

The Good Food and Wine Show rolls into the International Convention Centre in Sydney this weekend (June 23rd-25th), and it is not one to miss. Hall 2 of the ICC hosts a massive range of vendors this year, with food and drinks to satisfy all your cravings and curiosities.

A fun, carnival atmosphere hits visitors as they enter by Liqueurs on the Lawns, equipped with its very own DJ provided by Cointreau. For those who like a little spice in their life, Cointreau offers a spicy margarita made with Tabasco sauce, sure to warm anyone up in the cold Sydney weather. If spice is your thing, I recommend wandering over to the White Oat Distillery stall and checking out their Chilli Mango gin.

An avid gin drinker like myself is spoiled for choice this year, with local favourites Manly Spirits making a good showing and interstate distilleries like Underground Spirits, Canberra Distillery and Naught Distilling. This year’s surprise was Gin Mare, an olive and thyme savoury gin that would go perfectly with a nice charcuterie board and a lovely, crisp cheddar.

Speaking of cheeses, the Cheese Corner this year did not disappoint. Though small in terms of the number of vendors, the array of cheeses on offer was anything but. A nice mix of soft and hard cheeses is available to sample, and the general direction appears to be flavoured cheeses, with vendors providing less of the good old-fashioned basics, at least to sample. For those who purchased the Cheese Lovers ticket this year, the cooler bag provided with your ticket will be very useful.

Those with dietary restrictions need not miss out either. Amongst the cheese vendors is Noshing, priding themselves on creating 100% dairy-free cheeses that taste as good as the traditionally made cheeses available elsewhere. There were also a variety of non-alcoholic drinks to sample and many sugar-free and vegan options. The V2Food Plant-Based cooking stage could almost convince me to turn vegan, with the absolutely delicious dumplings and pies coming out semi-regularly.

There are classes and workshops aplenty for those who desire to brush up on their skills or perhaps try something new. I joined the Sodastream Mixology Moments masterclass in cocktail making. The two hosts, Penny and Stephanie, were a delight. They were incredibly personable and helpful and clearly loved what they were doing.

There is a also a little bit of celebrity action happening this weekend. Spanish-Australian chef Miguel Maestre, known for his work on Channel 10s The Living Room is teaching several classes and demonstrations, giving lucky viewers a chance to try his cooking firsthand. My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Feildel is also making an appearance and teaching some classes of his own.

The 2023 Good Food and Wine Show is full to the brim with delectable food and drinks ready for the eager foodie or keen wine connoisseur. Any lover of good food would be a fool to miss out on this event.

This review also appears in It’s On The House.

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Celebrating 25 Years of the Spanish Film Festival

The Spanish Film Festival returns and is celebrating its 25th year! This time, the festival will be heading to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Byron Bay, bringing with it a selection of films from across Spanish-speaking cultures. With subdivisions of New Spanish Cinema and Cine Latino and a range of genres available, there will be something for everyone in the festival program this year.

The preview film for the 2023 Spanish Film Festival was Alberto Rodriguez’s Prison 77 (In Spanish, Modelo 77). Prison 77 is a prison drama film set in the late 70s that follows the fictional experiences of Manuel, a young accounting assistant recently jailed for embezzlement and awaiting trial, as he joins a group of prisoners demanding amnesty during the transition to democracy in Spain. During this time, many political prisoners jailed by the Francoist regime received amnesty from the new government, and other prisoners held in the jails believed they deserved the same for being imprisoned by a crooked government.

Manuel and his fellow agitators form the Prisoners Rights Association (PRA) and hold protests, riots, and demonstrations against the harsh and unjust treatment they receive from the prison guards. When all their efforts fail, Manuel and some of his fellow prisoners stage a prison break in Shawshank Redemption style, tunnelling out of the prison and leaving through the sewer system to begin a new life.

The two lead actors head up the film masterfully. Miguel Harran brings a quiet intensity to his role of Manuel and does a fantastic job of showing the highs and lows of Manuel’s journey. Harran is matched by Javier Gutierrez as Jose Pino, Manuel’s older cellmate. Gutierrez’s Pino provides a wonderful counterbalance to Manuel as he both challenges and helps him, and Gutierrez keeps up with Harran blow for blow, both delivering incredible performances.

The script was tightly written, with no spare dialogue. Rodriguez, and co-writer Rafael Cobos, avoid the trap of using dialogue to explain what is happening in the moment, and what the character is going through internally. Instead, they trust the actors to convey all of that with a look or a gesture. Pino’s monologue about change and pushing forward despite the odds comes at the end of the second act and inspires Manuel just as he is about to give up, which proves a particularly fantastic moment. At least for me, that monologue hit hard, providing a much-needed emotional beat amidst the many visceral beatings shown on screen.

As well as having faith in the cast to convey the story without dialogue, Rodriguez’s direction never feels like it’s talking down to the audience. Instead, we are allowed inside a turbulent time in Spain. The score of the film is of particular note. At times it enhances the action, drama, and tension. At others, it shocks the viewer out of their immersion in a Brechtian style. This was especially obvious during the time jumps.

The film has a 125-minute run time and is filled with a lot of violence that could have perhaps been implied rather than explicitly shown. In fact, the repeated beatings feel somewhat overdone, as the audience is already well aware of the cruelty and injustice the prisoners faced and continuing to explicitly show the violence felt more gratuitous than informative.

Prison 77 is a great film to kick off the 25-year anniversary of the Spanish Film Festival here in Australia. If all the films shown across the program this year are of the same quality, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The Spanish Film Festival runs through June and early July so please be sure to look up session times if you are anywhere near Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Byron Bay.

This review also appears in It’s On The House.

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