Wednesday 10 June 2009

Cinema and the Spanish Civil War

For those of you within reach of London, the British Film Institute is running a season of films dealing with the Spanish Civil War throughout the month of June 2009. The season was opened by Paul Preston (ACIS Honorary President). Paul also had a hand in the selection of films, which includes a range of documentaries and fiction films from Spain and elsewhere, made between 1936 and last year, several of which have not been seen in the UK before.

I've managed to get up for a couple of sessions so far. Last week I saw Canciones para después de una guerra (Songs for after a war), which, to my shame as an aficionado of cinema and popular music, I had not seen before. The film is not so much about the Civil War, as a commentary on the society that grew out of it. It's an amazing, fast-moving montage of images of life in Franco's Spain, still and movie, much of it from advertisements or official sources such as NoDo, and all accompanied by a barrage of popular songs of the period, some classics, some hilarious, some both.

The film gives a startling visual and aural impression of la España carpetovetónica - the retarded state in which Franco struggled to keep Spanish society for 40 years. I've got a very funny book* about this somewhere, a collection of cartoons and advertisements from the Spanish press of the 60s and 70s, which makes an interesting complement to the images and sounds of this film.

* Celtiberia Bis, by Luis Carandell (1974) - there's a blog in the same spirit at No recomendable, and an article by Carandell from El País: Y España era celtiberia.

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