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What's Wrong With Spanish Cinema?

by John Bascombe on Thursday, March 05, 2015

Spanish cinema has just had its best year ever with record attendance and box office earnings. So what can go wrong? With films like Spanish Affair and El Niño generating millions at the box office and delighting Spanish filmgoers, it is hard to believe that anything can be wrong. But to some people in the film world, all of this success hasn't translated into recognition or invitations and nominations to the most important film festivals or major film awards. (The last Spanish film to be nominated for an Oscar was The Sea Inside, which also won the award in 2004) According to some, it appears that in the industry's attempt to raise flagging attendance, they have sacrificed some of the elements that captures the attention of serious film lovers and critics.

The only film to achieve some sort of success among film cognoscente in 2014 has been La Isla Mínima or Marshland as it is called outside of Spain. Is the only movie to have been received into the European film festival circuit of Venice, Berlin, and Cannes. Of course there is San Sebastian also, but since this is a homegrown festival there is always ample Spanish presence, in fact Spanish-Franco film Magical Girl won the Golden Shell award. But why is it that Spanish movies have such a hard time breaking through the selection process to the major festivals?

Looking back, the last Spanish film to appear in the official selection of Berlin was Dictado or Childish Games by Antonio Chavarrías. In Venice, Alex de la Iglesia's 2010 Balada Triste de Trompeta (The Last Circus) was the last Spanish film to appear there. Almodóvar's 2011 film La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) appeared in Cannes and since then no other Spanish film has been part of the official selection there. There have been some Spanish co-productions present like last year's Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) or No Llores, Vuela (Aloft) but these were films partially financed from Spain but didn't count on a large participation in the cast or crew.

Independent film producer, Álvaro Longoria from Morena films (Che), believes that the Spanish industry's attempt to capture more audience together with the growing participation of Spanish television networks bankrolling major films are having a negative effect on independent film production. Movies like El Niño highlight this trend with its slick eye-candy cinematography, similar in look to Michael Mann's Heat, is becoming more and more common.

With Spanish television networks becoming increasingly more important in financing films, their objectives are very different from traditional producers. Maximizing audiences on the big screen and later reaping profits on the small, the order of the day for the networks is making Hollywood blockbuster-like movies and if it's not pulse thumping action then simple, yet entertaining stories will suffice. Taking a look at the types of movies that dominated the box office in 2014 as our reference, it appears as though 2015 will continue with this trend… read more »

Other Posts

The Teacher and the Beatle

by John Bascombe on Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Beatles was a band that swept over the world with startling speed, even a country like Spain couldn't avoid this English steamroller thanks in part to Radio Luxembourg and its shortwave transmissions of rock n roll into Spain. One person, in particular, who was an admirer of the group, also used the lyrics from these transmitted Beatles songs to help teach English to his students. Juan Carrión, now 90 years old, was an English teacher at the University of Cartagena and his story was the inspiration behind the movie Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed by David Trueba which was selected as Spain's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 2015 Academy Awards… read more »

Update: The Search for Cervantes

by John Bascombe on Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Versión española abajo … read more »

Downtown Madrid - El Madrid de los Austrias

by John Bascombe on Monday, February 16, 2015

Versión española abajo … read more »

Visit Spanish Landmarks Virtually

by John Bascombe on Thursday, February 12, 2015

Internet giant Google is always up to something. Sometimes it takes the form of something not very useful or, possibly, ahead of its time (think Google Glass) but there are other things that are infinitely helpful, like Google Maps and its associated Street View. Back in the day, we had to use Thomas Guides (if you lived on the west coast of the U.S.) at home and Michelin maps when traveling abroad—two costly, but necessary tools for finding your way in strange places. But Google changed all of that, with street maps for just about anywhere and point to point driving directions that you could print out in the pre-smartphone days. Later, Google took things further with Street View. With this add-on to Maps, you could now SEE the address and visualize your destination.  With all of Western Europe, most of North America, and almost all of South America and Australia uploaded and ready for yo to use, you can travel virtually to just about any place in the world. But in Spain, Google has gone a step further—with Street View, you can now "walk" through some of Spain's most emblematic landmarks such as the Alhambra and Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona … read more »

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