Spain has many talented actors and actresses residing within it and, when combined with award-winning directors you can't go wrong. It's an easy decision wanting to check out some of the finest media that Spain has to offer, which ranges from classic to modern pieces. See Penelope Cruz in one of her finest moments in Volver, or perhaps you're looking for original content in the form of Abre los Ojos, which was later remade as Vanilla Sky. You have the masterpiece of Un Chien Andalou created by surrealist artist Salvador Dali and director Luis Buñuel, who remove all rational thinking from their creation; it's a real contrast and will ignite a passion that you will be excited to explore.
It comes as no surprise therefore that Spanish cinema has been a popular art form for many years, and has had quite an interesting course of development too! From the very beginning of Spanish film, to the most recent blockbusters, Spain has been pioneering in the industry over the years. Below you can find out more about the history of Spanish movies.
Early Spanish movies
The history of film in Spain began at the end of the 19th Century. In 1895, Barcelona held the first film exhibition in Spain. A year later, the cities of Madrid and Barcelona began screening movies by the Lumière brothers, some of the most famous French filmmakers.
The first movies made in Spain appeared in 1897. It is not known which came first, but some of the first Spanish movies were 'Salida de la misa de doce de la Iglesia del Pilar de Zaragoza' (Exit of the Twelve O'Clock Mass from the Church of El Pilar of Zaragoza) by Eduardo Jimeno Peromarta and 'Plaza del puerto en Barcelona' (Plaza of the Port in Barcelona) by Alexandre Promio, amongst others.
One of the first Spanish directors to gain international recognition was Segundo de Chomón. Segundo de Chomón spent a lot of time working in Italy and France, yet still produced some Spanish films such as 'El hotel eléctrico' (The Electric Hotel) (1908).
The silent Spanish film industry was centred around Barcelona in 1914. During this time, the 'españoladas' (historical Spanish epics) were very popular. The movies by Florían Rey were definitely the most famous of these. In 1928, the Spanish movie industry and shifted its focus to Madrid. Here Luis Buñuel and Ernesto Giménez Caballero set up the first film society. Buñuel also created a movie with Spanish painter Salvador Dalí. Their movie, 'Un chien andalou' (An Andalusian Dog) (1929) has become one of the most famous avant-garde Spanish movie of that period.
The Arrival of Sound
When films with audio arrived, Spain was caught napping. Many foreign films with sound entered the country in 1931, hurting the Spanish film industry badly. To counteract this, Manuel Casanova founded the CIFESA - Compañía Industrial Film Española S.A (the Spanish Industrial Film Company Inc.) - which helped introduce sound to the Spanish film industry. CIFESA also produced many movies, and eventually grew to become one of the largest production companies to ever exist in Spain, helping and supporting many young Spanish filmmakers, including Luis Buñuel.
The Spanish Civil War and Films Under Franco
During the Spanish Civil War, film went from being an art form and entertainment to being used for propaganda. Both sides of the war used film in order to promote themselves, discredit the opposing side, and censor unwanted information. During the Spanish Civil War, many Spanish actors went into exile due to the Pro-Franco side setting up the National Department of Cinematography. Dubbing also became obligatory due to Franco's regime. It was during this time that Spanish movie director, Luis Buñuel, released his short movie, 'España 1936' (Spain 1936), which was more like a realistic documentary, especially as it contained genuine footage from newsreels.
The decades of the 1950s, 60s and 70s were a period of collaboration between Spain and Italy as well as France. 'Tristana', a film by Luis Buñuel, was actually a joint project between all three countries. Many Westerns and "Sword and Sandal" movies were filmed in Southern Spain by mixed nationality teams. Spain also became the backdrop for many American movies such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962) and 'Dr Zhivago' (1965).
José María García Escudero became the new Director of Spanish Cinema in 1962. Escudero helped spur on Spanish cinema and the Official Spanish School of Cinema (Escuela Oficial de Cine). This school in particular produced many new Spanish directors who tended to be more left-wing and against the dictatorship of General Franco.
Censorship in Spanish cinema was heavily imposed by the Franco regime. The Spanish censors had no specific rules or guidelines by which to work. Therefore every movie that went under scrutiny was under the scrutiny of the individual censors and their own opinions and biases. All non-Spanish language movies were dubbed into Spanish or banned. However the dubbing was not always direct. The Spanish dubbers used this tool to delete or change any parts of the dialogue that they didn't like. The threat of censorship also meant that some Spanish directors and filmmakers complied with the rules straightaway so as to make sure they didn't lose out on money.
Spanish Movies from the Democractic Period
After the death of Franco, Spain moved towards democracy. Some of the first steps were to loosen the censorship surrounding the Spanish film industry. This included the allowance of movies and other cultural works in other languages, other than Castilian Spanish. With the new freedom, many Spanish directors made movies about controversial topics which were not up for debate under the dictatorship. Film in Spanish regions also thrived, with the creation of the Catalan Institute of Cinema, and the rise of 'New Basque Cinema'.
The most dominant styles of the democratic cinema of Spain are the 'Madrileño comedies', i.e. comedies from Madrid, of Fernando Colomo, the action of Alejandro Amenábar, the black comedies of Santiago Segura, and of course, the complex yet funny melodramas of Pedro Almodóvar.
Today, the Spanish film industry is thriving. It is widely celebrated as being both creative and technical. Since 1987, all aspects of Spanish movies have been appreciated at the Goya awards, held every year in January by the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España (The Cinematic Arts and Sciences Academy of Spain).
Want to find out more? Just follow the links and let the Spanish film world introduce you into the creativity of Spain.