• A Ticket to Your Life (SBS Movies)Source: SBS Movies
Spanish film maker Esther Lozano talks about 'A Ticket to your Life', a documentary about the lives of Spanish migrants in Australia, and currently screening at the Spanish Film Festival.
Stephen A. Russell

13 Apr 2016 - 3:03 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2016 - 4:21 PM

How many millions of people have set out for the land down under in the hope of creating a better life for themselves? The first recorded Spaniard was J.B.L. De Arrieta who arrived in 1821 and was subsequently granted 2000 acres of land by the NSW colonial government. He was pipped to the post by the introduction of Spanish sheep in 1797.

With just over 13,000 Spaniards listed in the 2011 Census, a new documentary by Sydney-based filmmaker Esther Lozano follows six of these arrivals. Debuting at this year’s Spanish Film Festival, A Ticket To Your Life offers a heart-warming and occasionally tear-jerking insight into very different lives, tall connected by similar emotional responses to being half the world away from their first home.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you have been here, you’re going to go through very similar situations, thoughts and feelings,” Lozano says. “We were hoping that anyone who has lived in a different country would identify with these people and what they go through.”

“We were hoping that anyone who has lived in a different country would identify with these people and what they go through.”

Mari Paz Moreno set out from Madrid in 1960 as part of a recruitment drive by the Catholic Church looking for young girls to work as domestic aides, leaving behind family as well as ambitions to become a journalist. Tomás Sánchez arrived in the same year, working in Queensland’s sugar cane fields before settling in Sydney where he co-founded the sadly defunct Spanish Club. Elías Juanas followed his heart in 1976, falling for an Australian flight attendant. They were enticed by abundant jobs and plenty of opportunity for the ambitious, even if the promise of English lessons sometimes failed to materialise and xenophobia occasionally reared its ugly head.

Instigated by a commission from the Spanish government, Lozano and producer Anna Vilalta Font, both Spanish migrants themselves, decided to expand the scope of A Ticket To Your Life to include young people fleeing Europe’s financial crisis. “We’re experiencing the second biggest wave of migration in our written history,” Lozano says. “We thought it would be interesting to understand, through their stories, how Spain and Australia have evolved during that time.”

IT engineer Denis Jiménez, 29, lands a job straight away, but misses his girlfriend of seven years. Twenty-year-old Spanish chef Sergio Buitrago came with his partner, but problems with her visa soon separates them. With a double degree in law and economics from the University of Barcelona, Neus Solé ends up waiting tables.

“In some ways it was easier for the older people because they came with a job,” Lozano says. “They didn’t even have to pay for their ticket. Younger people struggle more. They have to pay a lot of money to come here and more for visas. They have to try and find someone who can sponsor them.”

Lozano was fascinated by the complexities she encountered in these deeply personal stories, including pharmacist Juanas’s time capsule usage of 1970s Madrid slang despite visiting there regularly and a particularly telling moment where Moreno shares her advice with Solé, telling the younger woman that if she doesn’t fall in love here, she should stay for three years, study, have some fun, save money and then head back to Barcelona, “from where you should never have left.”

Lozano notes, “You see there how she’s projecting her contradictions and regrets onto Neus. It’s very revealing and sweet at the same time.”

Lozano studied media and communications in her hometown of Madrid where she was first inspired to pursue documentary making by American tutor and filmmaker Michael Rabiger. A career as a TV news reporter followed, with Lozano taking two years out to study English in 2005. “Australia was more exotic than England, which is too close to Spain,” she says. “I needed something different.”

Meeting and marrying her Australian partner here, they decided to stay. Lozano’s Australian work includes the ABC documentary Between the Lines: the Initiation of Adam Hill, about an Aboriginal artist who struggles with identity. It’s a topic she knows a little of herself. “Myself and Anna are both trying to understand why we are here and I suppose we’ve made a documentary we would have liked to watch ourselves, because we’re going through very similar processes. Making documentaries is a privilege and the Spanish Film Festival is a beautiful way of presenting our film.”

Watch trailer:


Esther’s Top 3 Spanish Films

Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un Ciclista)

(Juan Antonio Bardem)

“I was introduced to Bardem while studying in Madrid. He’s the uncle of Javier, who comes from a family of actors and filmmakers. With beautiful black and white cinematography it’s a mysterious story with Italian influences that has a very clever script with an interesting twist. He also had the capacity of showing Spain in the middle of the dictatorship, the oppression and double standards. It’s fascinating. It won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955.”


Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos)

(Alejandro Amenábar)

“Alejandro’s my generation and studied in the same school. He’s an amazing filmmaker and this was remade as Vanilla Sky for Hollywood. I think he represents a generation of people who started doing things differently in the '90s, going further than people expected from someone of his age.”


Butterfly’s Tongue (La Lengua de las Maripos)

(José Luis Cuerda)

“Another film from the '90s and a beautiful coming of age tale set during the Civil War. It’s about the relationship between a teacher and his students and how everything falls apart when the war starts. It makes you think, we could have been such a different country if this hadn’t happened.”


A Ticket to Your Life is currently screening at the Spanish Film Festival, with a Q&A with the director and producer available after some of the sessions. More info here.

Read more of the latest SBS Movies news

SBS On Demand: Top 10 Spanish-language movies
Say ¡Hola! to free Spanish-language movies thanks to this muy excelente selection available at SBS On Demand.
SBS On Demand: 25 movies by female directors
Mark International Women's Day by watching movies directed by women.