“Made in Spain” or the consecration of Spanish cinema

MADRID: A Golden Bear at the Berlinale for Catalan director Clara Simón, four Spaniards nominated for this year’s Oscars, including the couple Penélope Cruz-Javier Bardem: the Spanish seventh art dazzles the international scene, which rolls out the red carpet for her.

“That Penelope’s nomination is for a role in Spanish is extraordinary, historic for the Spain brand”: when the nominations for the Oscars ceremony, which will take place on March 27, were announced, Javier Bardem had not enough words to get excited.

Unlike some countries with a strong cinematographic DNA, Spain has so far struggled to find a place for itself on the international scene.

Luis Buñuel is thus the only Spaniard to have won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1961 for Viridiana.

But since then, Spanish cinema has begun to catch up, regularly winning the jackpot, like Carla Simón in Berlin with her film “Alcarràs”.

According to the magazine Variety, the name of Penélope Cruz circulates to be the president of the jury of the next Cannes festival, a distinction already granted in 2017 to Pedro Almodóvar, by far the most appreciated Iberian director abroad.

On the Oscars side, the actress has already won a statuette in 2009, but for an American film (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, by Woody Allen).

If she got it for her role as Janis in “Parallel Mothers”, by Pedro Almodóvar, it would be the consecration of a 100% “Made in Spain” film, especially since the film’s music earned a fourth nomination at the Basque composer Alberto Iglesias.

The latter, who has worked with Almodóvar on 13 films for more than twenty years, confirms to AFP that the seventh Spanish art is experiencing “a very strong momentum which is not the result of coincidences, but of a new passion” , the result of “an education, the work of film schools”.

“Maybe we started a little late, a smaller industry, fewer filmmakers,” he continues.

Not identified

“Spanish cinema has had a lot of trouble getting through the doors of international festivals,” adds Pilar Martinez-Vasseur, director of the Nantes Spanish Film Festival.

The films that were released abroad were often not identified as Spanish, she explains: who knows, for example, that “The Others”, with Nicole Kidman, was directed by Alejandro Amenábar?

“In Spain, we still have the idea that Spanish cinema is bad, that it’s a nest of communists, that the directors are boosted who do nothing and receive subsidies”, she laments, pleading for more “cultural diplomacy” through greater support from the Spanish government.

The seventh art is however much less funded on this side of the Pyrenees than in France, note many specialists in the sector.

The industry “has learned to find its place in a globalized ecosystem,” says Beatriz Navas, director general of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts, which depends on the Ministry of Culture.

“It took a broth of culture which was not done overnight (…) and a sufficient cooking time for the works to obtain the recognition they deserve”, she adds.

“Best moment”

In addition to Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Alberto Iglesias, Alberto Mielgo’s short film, “The Windshield Wiper” was also selected for the Oscars.

“Spanish cinema is living its best moment”, welcomes José Luis Rebordinos, the director of the prestigious San Sebastian film festival.

“There is a lot of cinema, audiovisual production at the moment in Spain, with platforms that provide a lot of work and allow Spanish technicians to be better,” he explains.

Spain, whose western landscapes attracted Hollywood from the 1960s, is increasingly popular with series production platforms: Netflix, which inaugurated its first European studios in Madrid in 2019, has broadcast Spanish series successful like Casa de Papel or Elite.

For a year, the left-wing government has shown its desire to “make Spain the audiovisual hub of Europe” and to increase production on its territory by 30% by 2025 by injecting 1.6 billion euros.

“International critics pay more attention to our cinema thanks to the big names in cinema”, judges Mr. Rebordinos, the director of the San Sebastien festival.

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“Made in Spain” or the consecration of Spanish cinema