Film Information
Film Specifications
Release Dates
Box Office Figures
Published References
Other Links
Critical Review
Synopsis and Commentary
Critical Response
Film Circumstances

Film Information


Main Crew:
Director: JACOBS, Steve
Born 8/1/1967 in New Haven Conneticut, USA, Jacobs attended the Australian Fim, Television and Radio School in 1999. More recognized for his televisions acting then his filmmaking, Jacob’s also appeared in the 2001 film, ‘The Man Who Sued God’. Currently working on ‘Disgrace’ a South African drama based on the book of the same name. He is not the Steve Jacobs who is the channel 9 weatherman on Australian TV.

Producer and Scriptwriter: MONTICELLI, Anna-Maria
Born in 1952 in Tangiers, Morocco. Monticelli won an AFI award for her supporting role in the 1984 post-war drama ‘Silver City’. It took 28 approaches to producers too intimidated by the multi-lingual plot for her to decide to produce La Spagnola herself, with then husband Steve Jacobs stepping in to his first directors role. The story is somewhat autobiographical, as Anna-Maria herself arrived in Australia as a primary school student, having lived in as many as 5 European countries where she had been translator for her parents. Anna originally adopted the name Anna Jemison in order to assimilate, before announcing her decision to change her name back to Monticelli as she accepted her AFI in 1984.

Cinematographer: ARNOLD, Steve
Steve Arnold has worked on 24 films. The most recent being ‘Highlander: The Source’ in 2006. He has won an Australian Cinematographers Society Award for Distinction for Terra Nova (1998)

Music Director: SKUBISZEWSKI, Cezary
Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1949 and immigrated to Australia in 1974. Skubiszewski has worked on some of Australia’s biggest films, including Bootmen (2000), The Rage in Placid Lake (2003) and Two Hands (1999). He has won an ARIA Music award for TV miniseries ‘After The Deluge’, and AFI Awards for La Spagnola and Bootmen.

Extended Crew List....

Main Cast:
Alex Dimitriades - Stefan
Born 28/12/1973 in Sydney New South Wales, An Australian soap star turned film actor. Dimitriades was best know for his role on televisions “Heartbreak High” before turning to film. He has enjoyed limited success in small Hollywood films and is currently working on “Victor in December” a Hollywood drama based on “The Great Gatsby”

Lola Marceli – Lola
Born 14/10/1967 in Malaga, Spain. A mostly Spanish television Actress, was nominated for her only award for her role in ‘La Spagnola’ (Best Supporting Actress: AFI Awards 2001)

Alice Ansara – Lucia
Alice Ansara has been in two other films, Tasmanian Horror ‘Rosebery 7470’ in 2006 and drama ‘One That Got Away’ in 1997. Alice was nominated for a an AFI Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in ‘La Spagnola’

Extended Cast List...  

Film Specifications:  

            87 Minutes
            English/Italian/Spanish with English Subtitles
            Film Awards and Nominations:
            2001 AFI Awards:     
Best Original Music Score: Cezary Skubiszewski
Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival:
Audience Award
                        Award of Independent Cinema Owners
            Film Critics Circle of Australia Award:
Best Actor – Female: Alice Ansara
                        Best Music Score:  Cezary Skubiszewski
                        Best Original Screenplay: Anna Maria Monticelli
            2001 AFI Awards
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Alex Dimitriades
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Alice Ansara
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Lola Marceli
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Lourdes Bartolomé
Best Cinematography: Steve Arnold
Best Costume Design: Margot Wilson
Best Editing: Alexandre de Franceschi
Best Original Screenplay: Anna Maria Monticelli
Best Production Design: Dee Molineaux
Best Sound: Peter Grace, Phil Judd, Andrew Plain

Release Dates

Australia: 20/9/2001
Netherlands: 27/1/2002
France: 20/3/2002
Spain: 5/4/2002
UK: 9/8/2002
Israel: 10/10/2002
Philippines: 22/9/2003

Box Office Figures

Box office figures for La Spagnola are not provided. However, it is not included in the list of top 100 grossing Australian films of all time compiled by the Australian Film Corporation (2006)

Published Articles and References to La Spagnola

For a film with such importance to Australia as a multicultural work, which was written by a woman at the forefront of the multicultural movement in Australia, I was dismayed at the inability I had to find printed information on the film.
I was unable to source any written or published work which discussed this film, which is disappointing given its gravitas.

Bradshaw, Peter. 2002. Guardian Unlimited. August 8:
            French, Phillip. 2002. Guardian Unlimited. The Observer. August 11:
Arts Today Film Review
Cinema Intelligence Agency Review
Inside Film Review                                         
Monticelli’s “La Spagnola”
An Australian tragicomedy from the factory fodder

La Spagnola: Spanish mission fails to conquer
A report on the 2001 Brisbane International Film Festival
Cinephillia Film Review of La Spagnola
Other Web links to online information:
La Spagnola does not have a significant online presence. It is sad that this film has slipped into relative obscurity, perhaps due to the timing of its release in 2001, a year that produced several other massive Australian hits.
IMBD remains the major source of film information, and thankfully retains a fair amount of material on La Spagnola.

Critical Review of Film and its Literature

Synopsis and Commentary

When your enemies have long since left, and there is still an angry torrent coursing through your veins, who is left to fight with?
La Spagnola punches its way through the battles between Lucia (Alice Ansara) her mother Lola (Lola Marceli), themselves and each other. Left destitute and pregnant by her adulterous husband, the despondent and forsaken Lola lashes out. Her husband Ricardo (Simon Palmares) cheats her out of an object for her fury, succumbing to ‘the high cholesterol diet’ and the Australian mistress who, in the words of Manola, ‘fucks him to death’. With no-one else to battle with, the tempestuous Lola focuses her attacks on her daughter Lucia and herself. The media kit for the film summarises this concept neatly, “As so often happens, the innocent is confused with the guilty” (Smith,2001)
La Spagnola is set amongst the migrant community of a small country town, the leading actors are Lola and Lucia, two women who can only be described as ‘caliente’, fiery, passionate and quintessentially Spanish. Food, music, dance, family and the dual national identity of the characters drive this film. Humerous and confronting, the film takes us through some difficult and gritty material in a buoyant and accessible fashion.
Some scenes are unforgettable, Reviewer Phillip French was affected by one scene;                         “Typical, and a test of whether you'd like the picture, is the cross-cutting between Lola straining loudly over a bowel-movement in an outdoor privy and her errant husband mounting to orgasm as he has sex with his Australian mistress on the floor of his new home” (French:2002)

That scene is one of several that make an impact, in one, Lola aborts her unborn child with a sewing needle while her husband dies in the throes of passion and a candle is extinguished. Such a confronting concept has never been portrayed in such a frank and yet accessible fashion.

Another scene typical of the film involve Manola (Lourdes Bartolome) in a flamboyant cooking scene, dancing, singing and jiving while bawdy and colourful vegetables are thrown about the place, before ultimately exploring the less culinary values of a cling wrapped zucchini while pots boil over and muffins rise.

The overt sexual overtones of Manola’s cooking and more subtle sensual experience of Lola eating link love and food for the audience. The intrinsic relationship between food and sexuality is again referenced in Lola’s dream, where Wendy, (the Australian mistress) is cut up by the butcher and fed to the waiting and hysteric women. While this dream is about women, the butcher’s casual dissection of Wendy’s body implies the treatment of women as meat by the men in the film.

La Spagnola is gaudy and loud, the characters are typically Mediterranean, yelling and swearing at each other with psychotic abandon. The colours are vibrant and dazzling, the imagery is spectacular and vivid and the acting is sublime. The ‘zucchini’ scene is filled with exaggerated colour, the onions being fried, the deep red tomato and capsicum, and bright green celery and, well, zucchini, shot with dazzling flare and simple elegance. Steve Arnold, the cinematographer for La Spagnola delivers a delicious blend of colour and beauty to the screen. The cherry red Ford the women fight over, the dramatic dress worn by Lola at the dance, even the garish pink of the plucked pigeons peering out of the fridge at a horrified Lucia. The cinematography links sensuality, and food with passion and womanhood.

It is this joy, this fervor and this passion that makes La Spagnola work so well. The issues are not paltry or vapid, this is a film about the difficulty for a migrant family to grow up in the isolated and often inhospitable rural Australia of the 1960’s. (One would like to believe this has changed… one may be deluding oneself)

Without the colour of this film enchanting and amusing the audience, the content would be too confronting and bleak. Not that this film white washes over anything, every concept and value explored is taken head on and at speed, it is just that we can better engage with the characters and their plight because we are drawn into the world with joy and love at the same time as we are shown its pain and its misery.

Critical Response

This is one of the most underrated Australian films of recent times. Perhaps because it came out in a year which already had bigger budget, bigger name and bigger marketed films, perhaps because it was released at the same time as the world was gripped by the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. For its importance as a multicultural film, in a period when the backlash against multiculturalism was in its peak, the underexposure of this film is tragic.

Interestingly, the film received a lot of coverage from reviewers internationally. In particular in the UK, La Spagnola was loved by reviewers. Most critics were supportive of La Spagnola, and many appreciated the bravery of a multilingual film in an Australian market.

Circumstances of the Film

La Spagnola was the baby of Anna Maria Monticelli. She had written the script based on her own experiences growing up, and was the product both of her childhood and formative years, and of her involvement in the campaign to support multiculturalism. The script had been around for 7 years, and had been shown to 28 different producers, all too frightened of the complex and multilingual script before she decided to produce the film herself with Husband Steven Jacobs directing.
During her acceptance speech for her AFI Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role for her role in ‘Silver City’, Monticelli said;
“I would like to take the opportunity to say that I am changing my name back to the one which I was born with, Anna Maria Monticelli. Because in the spirit of this film, I would like to support and encourage, all those millions of new Australians to persevere, hang in there, don’t give up. There is a future for all of us in this country.” (Monticelli, 1984)
While a lot of credit is given to the direction by Steven Jacobs for the film. For its colour and vibrancy and its fervour, it is the work done by Monticelli, to create and bring to fruition a truly multicultural film, a celebration of the survival of entire communities of migrants and the enrichment of Australia as a whole through those communities.

Genre Position

This film is a woman’s film, via the struggle of Lucia and Lola, the female protagonists, it is a social problem film, exploring as it does the experiences of a marginalized and battling community and the issues they face, a coming of age film with the development of teenage Lucia and it is an art film with its stunning imagery, vivid colour and overt confrontation of mainstream cinema.
I think ultimately and primarily La Spagnola is a woman’s film. It is difficult as a man to speak of women’s films. It is difficult to frame what is and isn’t a woman’s experience, and what is women’s values. La Spagnola fits into Jeanine Basinger’s definition of a woman’s film, “the genre is defined by the centrality of its female protagonist, its attempt to deal with issues deemed important to women, and its address to a female audience” (Basinger,1993)
Undoubtedly the central protagonists of La Spagnola (‘Spanish Woman’ in English) are women. And the issues they face of poverty, unemployment and desertion in a male dominated 1960’s Australia are “specifically connected to the fact that she is a woman” (Basinger,1993)
Female sexuality is explored in La Spagnola, by Manola and her relationship with cooking, and by the many suitors and lovers of Lola, and by Lucia’s experimentation with Stefano (Alex Dimitriades). As well as the concept of what it is to be a woman. The attitudes of the men in the film towards the women, that they should cook and clean, and go to bed with their husbands, and that as Manola puts it “Shut their mouths”. As Lola finds herself unable to support herself, she turns to the men in the community, appealing to their base lust in order to survive.
The film is also one of social issues and commentary. The position of migrant communities in Australia, demonstrated most clearly in the dinner scene, when Manola and Lola debate whether their home is in Spain, or in Australia. Manola says “Spain is where we were born! It is home” while Lola rebukes her, “Australia feeds us, this place is good to us, this is my home, if Eskimos were good to me, then with Eskimos would be my home”. This exchange deftly and comically raises the issue of migrant identity. The struggle between ones roots, and ones home, it is a characteristic of this film, and the brilliant writing, that this point is made with mirth. Humour helping the audience to engage with a conversation whose surface is light and fluffy, and underneath is complex and confusing.
In a time of political backlash against multiculturalism, and in particular an increased introspective and insular government, this film is entirely relevant. The dual identities of migrants, their isolation in Australia, particularly women migrants, still exists. By engaging with this issue through humour and verve, Anna Maria Monticelli and Steven Jacobs create a space where it is easier and less confronting to understand and empathise with this scenario.

La Spagnola is both a triumphant celebration of multicultural Australia, and a link between the dark and challenging task of making a new home in a new and very different place. This film, with its vivid and vibrant playfulness and its passionate and fiery characters, is an important contributor to the contemporary Australian Identity.


 Basinger, J. 1993. A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, Knopf, New York, as summarised by Karen Hollinger 2002, 'From female friends to literary ladies: the contemporary woman's film', in Steve Neale ed., Genre and Contemporary Hollywood, BFI, London: 77-90.
French, Phillip. 2002. Guardian Unlimited. The Observer. August 11:
Monticelli, Anna Maria. 1984. Recorded Speech shown on Television show ‘People Screen – Change of Face’. Television Program. Produced by SBS Television. Sydney: SBS Television. Accessed online: 20/5/2007
Smith, A & Airey, L. 2001. ‘La Spagnola: Media Information Kit’ Sydney NSW.
(box office figures)




Lola Marceli...             Lola
Alice Ansara...            Lucia
Lourdes Bartolomé...   Manola
Silvio Ofria...             Bruno
Simon Palomares...     Ricardo
Helen Thomson...        Wendy
Gabriella Maselli...      Maria
Alex Dimitriades...      Stefano
Armida Croccola...      Maria's Mother
Steve Rodgers...          Teacher
Tony Barry...              Doctor
Bogdan Koca...           Polish Patient
Nino La Giudice...       Renato
John Barresi...             Antonio
Nico Gazzana...           Italian patient


Production Company
Wild Strawberries
Developed with financial assistance from
South Australian Film Commission
SBS Television
Australian Film Commission
SBS Independent Commissioning Editor
MASEL, Barbara
Production Controller
BATH, Jason
AFC Project Co-ordinator
Production Manager
ADAMSON, Lorelle
Unit Manager
Unit Manager
Assistant Director (1st)
Assistant Director (2nd)
RYAN, Julian
Assistant Director (3rd)
Assistant Director (4th)
MARTINEZ, Juan Carlos
Assistant Director (Additional)
Assistant Director (Rehearsal)
KOCA, Bogdan
Casting (Madrid)
ARNAO, Elena
Script Editor
Script Editor
Director of Photography
Additional Camera Operator
Focus Puller
Clapper Loader
STEEL, Michael
Special Effects
MOSS, Tony
FRANCESCHI, Alexandre de
Assistant Editor
Production Designer
Art Director
Scenic Artist
Costume Designer
WILSON, Margot
Hair/Make-up Artist
EHLERT, Christine
Assistant Hair/Make-up Artist
Opening Titles Design
FURIO, Morgane
Opening Titles Design
Blue Congo
Optical & Graphic
Film Recording
Optical & Graphic
Music for the Italian Club Written by
[Music] Performed by
Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra
VPO (Trumpet)
VPO (Harp)
VPO (Guitar)
[Music] Performed by
Cezary's Combo
CC (Trumpets)
CC (Trumpets)
CC (Sopranino/Saxophones)
CC (Accordion)
Music Supervisor
[Music] Recorded and Mixed by
GRAY, Robin
[Music] Recorded and Mixed by
Sound Design
PLAIN, Andrew
Sound Recordist
GRACE, Peter
Boom Operator
Sound Mixer
JUDD, Phil
Sound Effects Editor
ADR (Recordist)
GRACE, Peter
Foley (Artist)
FIDDESS, Les 'Spider'
Foley (Recording Engineer)
Stunt Supervisor
Animal Supervisor
Fox Studios Australia