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Movie Review: Ocho Apellidos Vascos

Erica Huttner

It has been ages since I last watched a foreign-language film, so I decided to remedy that situation this weekend. My choice was Ocho apellidos vascos, a new Spanish comedy by director Emilio Martínez Lázaro, which translates as "Eight Basque Surnames". Since its release in April 2014, it has become the most watched film in the history of Spain.

The film tells the story of Rafa (Dani Rovira), a man from the southern Spanish city of Sevilla, who travels to the northern Basque Country in order to romantically pursue a feisty Basque girl named Amaia (Clara Lago). At the start Amaia wants nothing to do with him, but a surprise visit from her father Koldo, a proudly Basque fisherman, changes her mind. Through a ridiculously hilarious series of events, Rafa helps Amaia by spending a few days pretending to be Antxón, a full-blooded Basque man (as proven by his eight Basque surnames), with the help of Merche, a lovely Spanish widow. Don't worry, I haven't spoiled anything for you - all of this is in the trailer!

Besides the fact that Ocho apellidos vascos was the funniest film I've seen in ages, I was particularly fond of it due to its linguistic and cultural focus. Much of its humor is centered on the fact that Rafa is a typical sevillano with a strong andaluz accent, yet in order to "get the girl" he must completely change his accent, his name, and even his clothes, not without difficulty. Some of the film's most entertaining moments come when Rafa (as Antxón) is pressured to speak Basque, a language he doesn't know at all. The film is certainly worth a watch for Spanish speakers, though some of the comedy may be lost on those who are unfamiliar with Spain's culturally diverse regions and their associated stereotypes.

While the film is certainly not a thought-provoking cinematic masterpiece, I highly recommend it to anyone who knows Spanish and loves a good comedy.

Have you seen Ocho apellidos vascos? Let me know what you thought of it! I'd also love to hear any other foreign language film recommendations you have.