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Spanish Cinema

Spanish Cinema

Despite being surrounded by France and Italy, two of the most influential countries in world cinema, the Spanish film industry is not just a copy of its neighbors’ creativity. Quite the contrary, Spanish cinema has been regarded with its own originality and a rich artistic tradition.

The history of cinema in the Iberian Peninsula began with the first film exhibition on the 11th of May 1896 during San Isidro Festival in Madrid. That same year the first movie was filmed in the country: Exit of the Twelve O'Clock Mass from the Church of El Pilar of Zaragoza. The film, by Eduardo Jimeno Correas was actually his second recording, but the former never saw the light precisely because of lighting problems during the filming process. A year later, Brawl in a Cafe became the first Spanish fiction film. Directed by Fructuós Gelabert, the tape was recorded on a camera curiously built by him.

The beginnings: from silent cinema to the civil war

By 1910, the Spanish film capital moved from Madrid to Barcelona, where a peculiar genre of satire was welcomed by the Spanish mass. However, as in other European countries, some films based on historical events and literary works also filled part of the production quota.

That satiric and comical genre featured the so-called ‘españoladas’, which were basically a mockery of their most common customs. Among the best known films of this style highlights Baturro Nobility, directed by Florian Rey in 1925. The trail of this genre can be tracked until the mid 80s.

With the advent of spoken and sound cinema, Spanish productions faced a crisis. The import of foreign films attracted more people to the halls leading to an unprecedented decline of the national film industry in the 30's, and reducing the number of Spanish productions one title in 1931. In the years when the Civil War was sparking, the industry begun a gradual recovery, in which both sides would use cinema as a propaganda weapon.

With Franco's side victory, censorship was imposed and many directors and actors chose exile. Nevertheless, filmmakers like John Orduna, Jose Luis Saenz and Rafael Gil stayed and were prominent for their creativity. Another change in the industry imposed by the Franco regime was the mandatory translation for all the foreign films screened in Spanish cinemas.

Rocio Durcal

Rocio Durcal

The 50s peak

The 50s decade high point was the creation of the San Sebastián Film Festival, which has been made and maintained annually and continuously since September 1953, becoming one of the largest in the European circuit.

In the middle of the decade, a new trend came to the Spanish big screen. The children began to take several starring roles to delight the audiences with his playfulness and innocence. As part of this 'style', movies like Marcelino Pan y Vino, directed by Ladislao Vajda in 1955 marked the history of cinema stardom leading figures such as Joselito or Rocio Durcal, who later succeeded in Spain and Latin America as a singer.

Hail democracy… goodbye censorship!


In the sixties, several new filmmakers began to consider the idea of renewing the Spanish cinema. With left-wing ideas, some of them as Miguel Picazo (Aunt Tula, 1964); Francisco Regueiro (Good love, 1963) and Carlos Saura (Hunt, 1965) achieved unprecedented box office success.

The trend continued with the death of General Franco and the fall of his regime, but now they had full freedom. Thus, social and political changes were reflected in films about how hard was to live under the dictatorship and its abuses. It is remarkable that in this period, José Luis Garcí’s  Unfinished Business (1977) became the first Spanish Academy award winner.

The end of the 80s marked the foundation of the most important awards of Spanish cinema, the Goya Awards, a Spanish version of the Oscars U.S.


Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

Bad Education

Bad Education

International success

 The 90s decade witnessed the internationalization of several Spain born and trained actors. Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, among others, began to receive juicy economic proposals from Hollywood studios to perform in productions of astronomical budgets. For example, Antonio Banderas who worked with Quentin Tarantino in Four Rooms (1995), shot to fame after starring the life of a mariachi in search of redemption in Desperado (1995).

In recent years, the most prominent Spanish director across is Pedro Almodovar, who won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1999 with the film All About My Mother. Among his other successes are Bad Education (2004) and Broken Embraces (2009).

Another renowned director in recent times has been Alejandro Amenabar, who became worldwide known with the hit thriller Thesis in 1995 and years later directed Nicole Kidman in the terrific and terrifying The Others, awarded with 8 Goya Awards in 2001.

Since 2009 to present, several suspense films have gained ground and likeness in the Spanish film industry and audience. Movies such as The Orphanage and REC achieved very high box office figures. The latter even sold its rights to an American production company to make a Hollywood remake, which despite the success of the original version was not so lucky in the U.S. box office.

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