For the ninth time, the London Spanish Film Festival will be hosting a Spring Weekend to showcase a clutch of new releases. Running from 12-14 April at the Regent Street Cinema and the Ciné Lumière in London, the bijou programme contains Andrea Jaurrieta's Ana de Día/Ana By Day, in which García Jonsson discovers that she has been replaced by a lookalike; Pau Durà's Formentera Lady, which sees ageing, commune-dwelling hippie José Sacristán agree to take care of his grandson so his daughter can take a job in France; Elena Trapé's Les Distancias/The Distances, which follows four friends on an ill-advised trek from Barcelona to Berlin to pay a surprise visit on an university chum; and Rodrigo Sorogoyen's El Reino/The Realm, a thriller in which respected politician Antonio de la Torre fights back after he disgraced for showing loyalty to a corrupt comrade.

Also showing is Paco León's acclaimed TV series, Arde Madrid, which is set in the Spanish capital in 1961 and stars Debi Mazar as legendary Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, whose wild lifestyle has incurred the wrath of El Caudillo's government. Consequently, secret agent Ana Mari (Inma Cuesta) is smuggled into Gardner's home as her new maid, along with her `husband' Manolo (Paco León), who is the new chauffeur. However, Manolo is a rogue who sees the assignment as an open invitation to have fun and make some money. 

Over the last five year, actress Inés de León has been steadily building a reputation behind the camera with a series of music videos and the shorts, El Casting (2014), La Carta (2016) and Efecto Millennial (2017). She now makes her feature bow with ¿Qué te Juegas?/Get Her...If You Can, a sibling rivalry comedy that also seeks to change the rules of the romcom while taking a pop at the Spanish economic élite. 

The three Allende-Salazars have very different approaches to running the shipping company they inherited from their father. Harbouring delusions of grandeur, Fernando (Daniel Pérez Prada) prefers to sit in his office in a naval uniform, while Roberto (Javier Rey) pilots his own helicopter to the office where he beavers away on the design of a new turbine that could revive the company's fortunes. However, the meticulous Daniela (Amaia Salamanca) is a hard-nosed executive who believes that subsidiary operations will have to be sacrificed in order for the streamlined business to survive. 

When Fernando announces that he is ready to quit and intends giving his vote to his sister, Roberto decides to distract her by hiring comedian Isabel (Leticia Dolera) to seduce her. While Roberto seeks counsel from his South American guru, Yuma (Walter Orellana), Isabel listens to the anything but helpful advice of her flatmates, Luis (Santiago Segura) and the blue-haired Alexia (Mariam Hernández), who has developed a crush of her own on Roberto. The trouble is, so has Isabel, whose pursuit of Daniela is viewed with considerable suspicion by her loyal maid, Álex (Brays Efe). 

At one point, Isabel is seen dozing in front of Roger Michell's Notting Hill (1999) while Roberto tries to teach her the finer points of romance. Her reaction seemingly sums up De León's own attitude to the clichés of the sub-genre. However, this brisk comedy of corporate manners isn't entirely immune from those cornball gambits that have been employed since time immemorial to keep lovers apart and at loggerheads until they realise their true feelings for one another. Isabel's stand-up routines are used to provide some satirical balance, but this drifts towards its lip-locking conclusions with a sense of inevitability. Sporting some splendidly chic outfits, Amaia Salamanca is drolly severe as the obsessive Daniela, while Javier Rey shows flickers of smarmy charm. But, while Leticia Dolera is engagingly spirited, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a supposed feminist to be conspiring with a chauvinist against his lesbian sister. 

The ballet biopic has taken some interesting steps in recent times and Wim Wenders's Pina (2011) and Jacqui and David Morris's Nureyev (2018) is now followed by Icíar Bollaín's Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story. Adapted from the Cuban dancer's autobiography, No Way Home, this is the third narrative collaboration - after Even the Rain (2010) and The Olive Tree (2016) - between the Spanish director and her British screenwriting partner, Paul Laverty, who is best known for his association with Ken Loach. 

Arriving at the Cuban National Ballet after driving through the vibrant streets of Havana , Carlos Acosta (playing himself) sits in on rehearsals while flicking through the pages of a scrapbook. He recalls breakdancing as a 10 year-old boy (Edlison Manuel Olbera Núñez) and begrudgingly accompanying parents Pedro (Santiago Alfonso) and Maria (Yerlín Pérez) to an audition at the prestigious ballet school. Convinced dancing was not for real men, Yuli had refused to co-operate. But Chery (Laura De La Uz) recognises his talent and offers him a place, which he accepts at the insistence of his mother and father, who are too poor to live apart, even though they have been divorced for some time. 

Such is the Hispanic Maria's growing sense of desperation that she agrees to leave Yuli and Marilin (Anyeley Kwei) behind so that she can flee to Florida with her mother, sister and eldest daughter. Berta (Andrea Doimeadiós). Pedro is dismayed and takes Yuli to the plantation, where his ancestors had been slaves. He describes the indignities and punishments they had suffered, but reminds him that he belongs to the Ogun warriors and should always be proud of his Yoruba heritage. 

Back in the present, Acosta dances an interpretation of this brush with his past (playing his father, while Mario Elias assumes the Yuli role) and surprises the other members of the company by revealing that he only ever made this journey in his mind. As we return to the 1980s, Maria decides to stay in Havana. But Yuli detests his classes and runs away from the school. He finds himself in Vittorio Garatti's National Arts Schools and overhears a guide telling a party about how it was built on the site of a former country club after Fidel Castro and Che Guevara had hatched the idea while playing its final round of golf. However, when Soviets had considered it a luxury and the project had been abandoned before it was completed. 

When Pedro is jailed after a motorcyclist is killed by running into the back of his truck, Yuli goes off the rails and Chery has to come to his neighbourhood to drag him off to a concert. She cleans him up as best she can in the back of a car, while other staff members berate Yuli for throwing away a golden opportunity. He performs with aplomb and takes Pedro a photograph to show him how well he is doing. Indeed, he lies that he is a changed character and that the school is thrilled with his progress. In order to replicate his father's fury on finding out the truth, Acosta and Elias dance a belt thrashing session that leads back into Yuli's mother and sisters trying to console him in his pain. 

As Chery is unable to prevent Yuli from being expelled, she arranges for him to attend the ESBEC boarding school in Pinar del Río. Despite his pleas not to be sent away, Yuli heeds Pedro's claim that he would accept daily beatings if it meant helping his son to realise his talent. The action cross-cuts between Yuli loathing every second of his ordeal and Elias dancing his conflicted emotions. At one point, Acosta gives Elias notes that reveal the extent of his loneliness on Wednesdays, which was visiting day and Pedro and Maria never came to see him, as his father was always too busy and his mother was always too sick. 

A silhouetted dance shows Yuli being bullied after he was caught stealing and we see him humiliated in front of the entire school. At this lowest ebb, however, he attended a ballet performance on the outdoor stage and he was so mesmerised by the power and grace of the male dancer (and moved by the applause he receives) that he starts practicing alone at night and a spectacular sequence presents him pirouetting in a downpour, with the rain sprays off his head as he spins. 

From this epiphanal moment, we cut to 1990, as Carlos (Keyvin Martínez) wins the prestigious Prix de Lausanne and, despite poor TV reception, Pedro, Maria and Marilin (Betiza Bismark) watch with a pride that isn't felt by Berta. Under Chery's tutelage, he goes to Turin, where he wins a scholarship and dances on an empty stage with Isabelle. Back home, Pedro keeps a scrapbook, as the Cuban press waxes lyrical about the `Golden Mulato'. He also tells him to forget home and seize the opportunity to break new ground for a black dancer by dancing with the English National Ballet. Worried that Chery will get into trouble for letting him go without government permission, Carlos is nervous about accepting. But she refuses to let him miss a chance to develop as an artist and as a man. 

Despite the step up, London proves to be a lonely place and Carlos is racked by the news that Berta has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Moreover, he damages his ankle, and, while recovering in hospital, he sees reports about compatriots risking their lives to reach Miami by makeshift raft because the Cuban economy has collapsed. Needing to reconnect, Carlos flies home. But, while Maria and Marilin are delighted to see him, Pedro is furious with him for complaining about a bit of rain and allowing nostalgic wallowing to cause him to lose concentration and jeopardise his career. When Carlos claims he wouldn't care if he ever danced again and accuses his father of stealing his childhood, Pedro berates him for wasting a gift he doesn't deserve. 

We leap from this confrontation in a Havana backstreet to Acosta watching his company performing a political piece about American interference in Latin America (with English narration, but no identifying caption to clue non-Acostaficionados what on earth we're supposed to be watching). When one of the troupe asks Acosta to explain the piece, he simply gets up and walks away with a curt remark about knowing the truths about his life and others needing to find them out for themselves. This point leads us back to Carlos hanging out with his pal Opito (Cesar Domínguez), who relishes confrontation with cops demanding bribes and bouncers seeking to keep him out of the swanky hotels favoured by tourists. One of the gang informs Carlos that Opito is building a raft to sail to Florida and he gets cross with his friend for trying to talk him out of such a perilous voyage. 

No mention is made of the fact that Carlos is on his way to becoming principal dancer at the National Ballet of Cuba. Instead, we see Chery scolding him for getting fat while living the high life with his posse. He insists he is worried about his ankle (which isn't true, as he is already dancing) and she avers that he is insulting her by throwing her sacrifices back in her face. She urges him to accept an invitation to join the Houston Ballet and he goes to see the National Ballet director with Pedro (their quarrel forgotten, just like that). As they wait in the foyer, a small black boy leaves a lesson to ask if he is the famous Carlos and father and son burst out laughing when the onetime truant tells the kid to focus on his studies. 

Elias leads a routine in which Yuli becomes a ladies' man. But he keeps his eye on the prize and we see Pedro smiling with quiet satisfaction as he pastes in a clipping about his son joining the Royal Ballet. More pages are filled with the covers of programmes from Carlos's triumphs, as we cut between him walking the cold London streets on his own and an ensemble piece with Elias that seems to suggest he is anything but alone. Strobe lights suddenly flash and we cut back to Havana, where Berta (who has been all but forgotten for the last 30 minutes of the film) is about to throw herself off the sea wall. Too busy to join his family for the funeral, Carlos tosses a rose off a bridge into the Thames and silently curses the cruelty of the world.

Normal service is soon resumed, however, and Pedro resumes his scrapbook-keeping duties, as Carlos becomes the Royal Ballet's first black Romeo. He comes to London to see his son perform and gives a speech at supper afterwards, in which he thanks Maria and Chery for their part in keeping Carlos heading in the right direction. Moreover, he urges him to make England his home base from which to conquer the world and their toast cuts back to Acosta bringing Romeo and Juliet to Havana and Chery coming to the theatre to tell him how proud she is. Acosta goes to Pedro's grave before dancing on the stage at the Cuban Ballet in a burst of patriotic pride.

Essentially, this scattershot biopic is a tale of three debutants. Renowned dancer and choreographer Santiago Alfonso excels as Pedro Acosta, as he drives his son to recognise and respect his talent, while Edilson Manuel Olbera Núñez is feistily superb as the rebellious Yuli, who seethes with a homophobic distaste for ballet when he could be moonwalking like Michael Jackson. However, the film loses much as a drama when Núñez is replaced by Keyvin Martinez, a dancer in Acosta's company, whose limited acting range is cruelly exposed by the skittishly episodic depiction of Carlos's first difficult years away from home. 

But Martinez is not helped by the sloppiness of Laverty's script, which cuts too many corners in striving to contrast Carlos's homesickness with his family's suffering. One of his reasons for returning to Havana is to see Berta, but he fails to even visit her after Maria mentions that she's improving in hospital. The audience has invested a certain amount of emotion in her situation. Yet, Bollaín and Laverty ignore her and instead insist that we care about Opito and his reckless rafting expedition, when he hasn't figured in the film before. Moreover, it's impossible to discern whether he is a factual character or a composite cipher. Either way, his dilemma comes across as lazy conscience prodding of the kind that Laverty has introduced to Ken Loach's cinema. 

Moreover, we see Martínez dancing with a succession of anonymous partners in rehearsal halls and empty theatres without learning which performances fuelled Acosta's reputation and why. Showbiz biopics have used so-called Hollywood montages of newspaper headlines, calendar pages and showbills to summarise periods of progression or regression. But not everyone will know enough about Acosta's career to appreciate the significance of the items shown and many will want to know a lot more about how he was treated as an imported star than the film is prepared to reveal. How did he and Chery manage to persuade the authorities to let him travel so freely and was his isolation in London down to envy, prejudice or his own demons? What's certain is that Cuba's problems in this period owed as much to the collapse of the Soviet Union as the interventionism of Smedley D. Butler and the insertion of the denunciatory dance routine merely clutters an already digressive and disjointed segment of the story. 

The decision to include metatextual passages of Acosta rehearsing a show based on his life enables Bollaín to circumvent biopic convention and allows viewers to see the man in action. But the cutaways feel self-conscious and aren't always photographed with the dynamism that Alex Catalán brings to the sun-kissed shots of Havana that reinforce the pervading tone of romanticisation as much as Alberto Iglesias's often swooningly lush score. Clearly Acosta himself is happy with Bollaín's approach and there are moments of dramatic and balletic potency. However, this is a flamboyant, faltering and frustrating feature that is nowhere near as daring in its execution as it presumes.

Finally, Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar's The Silence of Others is a compelling chronicle of a six-year bid to bring to justice some of the surviving henchmen who enacted the repressive policies of Generalisimo Francisco Franco during the 40-year dictatorship that ended with his death and the return of democracy in 1975. Executive produced by Pedro and Augustín Almodóvar, this is a well-intentioned and useful introduction to Spain's attempts to deal with the legacy of the Civil War and cap enduring support for Falangism.

In a rather slapdash opening, Carracedo and Bahar simplistically explain that the Civil War began with a coup that ultimately left Franco in power. We see newsreel footage of Franco with Adolf Hitler and Republican prisoners being shot by the Falangists. But details are few and far between, as the narrator reveals that Parliament moved quickly after Franco's death to pass an Amnesty Law that not only pardoned all political prisoners, but also protected those who had imposed totalitarianism and tortured and murdered its opponents. This attempt to encourage a fresh start by making amnesia part of the reconciliation process was nicknamed El Pacto del Olvido (`The Pact of Forgetting') and the narrator describes how decades of ignoring the past in schools has resulted in the millennial generation having little or no idea about the extent of the suffering inflicted and endured by their great-grandparents. 

Those who lived through these tumultuous times have not forgotten, however, and María Martín shuffles with the aid of a walking frame from her rustic village to the spot where her murdered mother was deposited in a mass grave when María was six years old. There are no monuments to mark the site. Indeed, a road has been laid over it. But Maria continues to tie flowers to the metal crash barriers, even though she knows they will be removed within a couple of days by those who wish to keep the past buried. 

In Madrid, José María Galante (aka `Chato') points out the building that's home to Antonio González Pacheco, a notorious Franco lieutenant who was dubbed `Billy the Kid' because of his lawless cruelty. Thanks to the Amnesty Law, he has never been made accountable for his actions and Galante has joined forces with wheelchair-bound human rights lawyer Carlos Slepoy to bring a prosecution while those who can still testify against Pacheco are able to do so. He recalls how Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was tried under the statute of Universal Jurisdiction after Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón brought charges against him in 1998. However, when Garzón attempted to investigate Francoist era crimes in 2010, he was suspended and charged with prevarication. Consequently, Slepoy decided to pursue his case against Pacheco through the courts in Argentina.

A close-up montage follows, as those backing the prosecution (including María Martín and José María Galante) outline the crimes committed against themselves or their relatives. In Buenos Aires, María Servini is appointed `Investigating Judge' for the case and she explains how, despite the Amnesty Law, there is no statue of limitation for crimes against humanity. However, she needs witnesses and human rights lawyer Ana Messuti travels to Extremadura near the Portuguese border to meet María Martín, who tells how mother Faustina López González was accused of being a Communist and had her head shaved before she was paraded through the village behind a marching band and shot, along with two other women and 27 men. She insists she is less interested in revenge than in being able to reclaim her mother's remains and bury them alongside her husband. But, in a town that still has streets named after Franco and his cohorts (and with María's own children being divided over the wisdom of prosecution), Messuti knows that they face a difficult task and that the Spanish authorities will try to play a delaying game in the hope that some of the key witnessed pass away.

While past and present prime ministers Jose María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy join King Felipe VI in calling for Spaniards to focus on the future and not open healed wounds, we accompany Galente to his cell in the abandoned political prison at Segovia in Castile. Following the murder of student leader Enrique Ruano in 1968, Galente had devoted himself to resisting El Caudillo and Felisa `Kutxi' Echegoyen recalls being taken to the General Security Headquarters (DGS) in Madrid and being beaten by Pacheco and his sidekicks. The building on Puerta del Sol is the scene of regular memorial demonstrations by those who were `disappeared' into its cells and, yet, a quick vox pop on the streets of the capital reveals that few under the age of 30 know anything about the Amnesty Law or the Pact of Forgetting. 

When the case was first brought in 2010, there were only two plaintiffs. But this number has risen to 89 by 2013 and Judge Servini orders the Argentine Consulate in Madrid to provide live video conferencing facilities so that she can speak to witnesses. However, on the day the first testimony is to be heard, the ambassador decided to block the connection because he feared such an act would provoke Spain into breaking off diplomatic relations. 

A cut from the ceremony to mark the first anniversary of Franco's death in 1976 to a `Make Spain Great Again' rally in 2016 shows that the Falangist ideology has not gone away and Jaime Alonso of the Franco Foundation insists that Franco was never wrong and should be revered for saving Christian Western civilisation from Communist tyranny. However, shots of the Generalisimo with presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, as well as French leader Charles De Gaulle and UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim shows the extent to which he was backed in his actions during the Cold War. Following the accession of King Juan Carlos, the majority of those who had held office under Franco kept their jobs and only two votes were cast against the Amnesty Law.

But María refuses to forget and keeps writing letter signed with a reference to the fact her father was told that pigs would fly before his wife would be exhumed. Her granddaughter, María Ángeles Martín, returns to the village of Pedro Bernardo and describes how her mother used to be terrified of the Civil Guard. As we see footage of a religious procession through the streets in 1960, María reveals that people used to give her the cut throat gesture because they wished they had killed her along with her mother. Yet, her son, Luis, argues with María Ángeles about the rationale behind changing street names, as he believes the past should not erased and that the bad should be commemorated along with the good to ensure mistakes are not repeated. 

In Madrid, Galente bitterly resents the fact he wakes up each morning on Calle del General Yagüe, which was named in honour of one of Franco's comrades in the coup and who became known as `The Butcher of Badajoz' after he executed 4000 prisoner's in the city's bullring. A sequence reveals several other street plaques, as well as Franco's Arco de la Victoría, and this whistlestop tour puts momentum back into the campaign, as Galente, Slepoy and Messuti travel the country to gauge support for their cause in outlying towns. 

Among the people they meet is María Mercedes Bueno from La Línea near Gibraltar, who was told that her baby had died on Christmas Eve in 1981, when she was an unmarried 18 year-old. However, she has now learned that lots of infants were stolen from mothers who had been informed of fatalities and she discovers that the practice had been started in the 1940s by Dr Vallejo Nágera, who has studied eugenics in Nazi Germany and had been convinced that the children of Communists carried a `red gene' that could be tamed by giving them to families loyal to the regime. Bueno believes that the post-Franco machine continued the practice on moral grounds to punish the poor for having too many children and single women for their promiscuity and she thinks the Nágera factor should be added to the war crimes case. 

By September 2013, the number of plaintiffs has risen to 235 and Servini decides to order the arrest of four suspected torturers and invites those fit to travel to fly to Buenos Aires to give their testimony. Among them is Ascensión Mendieta Ibarra, who is seeking justice for the father who died in November 1939 and was buried in a mass grave. The party visits the Secret Detention Centre in Buenos Aires, as the narrator notes that Latin American countries like Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Guatemala adopted their own versions of the Pact of Forgetting after dictatorships were overthrown. However, as in Rwanda and Cambodia, these were challenged during Truth and Reconciliation processes and the Spanish activists hope that something similar can happen in their homeland. 

Back in Madrid, extradition claims are made against Pacheco and Civil Guard captain Jesús Muñecas Aguilar and the camera floats around the four statues in Francisco Cedenilla's `El Mirador de la Memoria' overlooking the village of El Torno as we hear the voices of the witnesses giving their long-withheld testimony. Some time after her return, Ascensión hears that Judge Servini has ordered Spain to exhume her father so that he can be given a dignified burial. The mass graves in the cemetery in Guadalajara were fenced off for 30 years and mourners used to throw flowers over the barbed wire. Nearby is a memorial to Franco loyalists and Carracedo and Bahar compare this with El Caudillo's own tomb at Valle de los Caidos (`Valley of the Fallen').

Meanwhile, cases are being compiled against the medics who stole babies and the ministers who condoned slave labour. Among those in their sights is Martín Villa, a cabinet member in the last years of the Francoist era and a deputy prime minister under Juan Carlos. Judge Servini travels to Spain to hear testimony in these cases and UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff backs their efforts and even recommends the suspension of the Amnesty Law because people don't forget. 

On the day of Pacheco's extradition hearing, Galante and others testify about their torture in a meeting near the courthouse. But, while they demand justice, the court denies the petition because they don't view the charges being brought against Billy the Kid as being crimes against humanity and, therefore, the statute of limitations has expired. However, shortly after María Martín is buried, Salvini orders the detention of 20 people, including Martín Villa. 

By January 2016, the order has been given to open the mass graves in Guadalajara and Ascensión is joined by children Chon and Paco to witness the exhumation. The chief investigator has never seen such a deep grave and is convinced it was excavated with mass murder in mind. Determined to continue her mother's fight, María Ángeles becomes actively involved in the campaign to open the grave outside Pedro Bernardo, while Salvini urges them to keep battling, as Amnesty Laws in Latin America were eventually overturned. As if to prove her right, Madrid Council voted to change the name of several streets with Francoist connotations and Galante is delighted that his address will finally be cleansed. Shortly afterwards, Ascensión got to see her father in his last resting place. 

Closing captions reveal that Spanish courts continue to block the extradition of the Servini 20. But local courts have started to hear cases, including those in Madrid and Barcelona. Moreover, a movement has been launched to annul the effects of the Amnesty Law. The camera records people visiting Cedenilla's four sculptures in the Valle del Jerte and poignantly captures a small girl touching the hand of one of the figures. As the film ends, the sun sets on the memorial and the silhouettes stand defiantly against an inky blue sky.

By its very nature, any film following a legal case over several years is going to feel stop-startish. But the Emmy-winning duo of Carracedo and Bahar tell their stories with a care and cogency that only makes one wish more fervently that they had devoted more time to putting the Amnesty Law in its full historical context, particularly as the education system has ensured that the bulk of the Spanish audience would also need some extensive background information. More space might also have been devoted to the recollections of the victims and their families, as there is a considerable disparity between what we know about the fate of María's mother and Ascensión's father. Similarly, the plight of the stolen baby mothers is somewhat marginalised, while references are made to slave labour without any details being provided.

It might also have been useful to hear more from some die-hard Francoist supporters to discover the extent to which the Civil War has not been forgotten on the Falangist side, either. Similarly, the opinion of those who know next to nothing about their country's past might also have been canvassed, along with those from the 1936-75 period who are content with the status quo. This may seem a lot for a single documentary to cram in, but this is a topic of compelling significance, as the 80th anniversary of the ending of the conflict looms. 

Nevertheless, Carracedo and Bahar pay handsome tribute to the courage of María, Ascensión, Galante and the late Carlos Slepoy, as well as to the integrity and doggedness of Judge Salvini. Their use of the Valle del Jerte is moving in the extreme and Carracedo rightly allows her camera to linger over the bullet holes fired by a Francoist adherent that Cedenilla claimed made his work complete. The contributions of editors Kim Roberts and Ricardo Acosta and composers Leonardo Heiblum and Jacobo Lueberman should also be commended and it's to be hoped that this important statement is widely seen across Spain.