The success of Spanish cinema demonstrates its appeal to a global audience

Spanish actor Javier Bardem won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh in the Western drama “No Country for Old Men” in 2007, which was followed by Penelope Cruz’s Oscar in 2009. And her compatriot, director Carla Simon has been honored with a Golden Bear more recently. This shows that Spanish cinema has already begun to step strong.

When Bardem and Cruz, who have been married for more than a decade, were chosen for the Oscars, the 53-year-old actor could barely contain his excitement.

“The fact that (Penelope’s) nomination was for a role in Spanish… seems really extraordinary to me, even historic in terms of the Spanish brand,” he said in February.

Unlike other countries with a long and distinguished cinematographic history, Spain has struggled to establish itself on the international stage.

Until now, Luis Buñuel has been the only Spanish director to win the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his provocative 1961 film “Viridiana”.

But all that is changing, with Spanish cinema increasingly recognized for its contribution to the big screen, the most recent being Carla Simon’s triumph at this year’s Berlinale, where she took first prize for “Alcarras” (2022), a Catalan drama about peach farmers.

And according to Variety magazine, Cruz is rumored to be a candidate for jury president at Cannes, an honor already bestowed on the legendary Pedro Almodóvar, by far Spain’s best-known filmmaker.


Javier Bardem (M), Penélope Cruz (L) and Scarlett Johansson 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'.  (Sabah file photo)
Javier Bardem (M), Penélope Cruz (L) and Scarlett Johansson “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. (Sabah file photo)

Cruz herself is the only Spanish actress to win an Oscar, taking home the award for best supporting actress in 2009 for Woody Allen’s comedy “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

And if she wins best actress at the Oscars later this month for Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers,” it will be a lucky break for a film entirely “Made in Spain,” whose soundtrack has also been nominated for best original soundtrack.

Years of work of film schools

The score was written by Basque composer Alberto Iglesias, who has worked with Almodóvar for two decades on 13 of his films. This is the fourth time that a soundtrack by Iglesias has been nominated for an Oscar.

For him, there is a “strong impulse” within Spanish cinema.

“There is an energy … it has to do with film schools that have been working for a long time to create new filmmakers,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“It has been very difficult for Spanish cinema to cross the threshold and enter these major international festivals,” explains Pilar Martínez-Vasseur, director of the Spanish Film Festival in the French city of Nantes.

Spanish films that have received praise abroad are often not identified as such, he said, pointing to the 2001 psychological thriller “The Others,” starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Spaniard Alejandro Amenábar.


In this file photo taken on February 12, 2022, Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar (L) and Spanish actress Penelope Cruz pose on the red carpet upon arrival at the 36th Goya Awards ceremony at the Palau of the Arts of Valencia.  (AFP)
In this file photo taken on February 12, 2022, Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar (L) and Spanish actress Penelope Cruz pose on the red carpet upon arrival at the 36th Goya Awards ceremony at the Palau of the Arts of Valencia. (AFP)

“In Spain we still have the idea that Spanish cinema is bad, that it is a nest of communists, that filmmakers are pampered, do nothing and receive subsidies,” he said, calling for more government support.

Cinema in Spain receives far less state aid than in France, experts say.

Spanish cinema has had to “learn to break into a globalized ecosystem,” said Beatriz Navas, director of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA), subsidized by the Ministry of Culture.

“This didn’t happen overnight because you need a kind of ‘greenhouse’ environment where filmmakers can work freely,” he told AFP.

“And the ‘incubation time’ must be sufficient for these productions to achieve the recognition and prestige they deserve.”

‘The best moment of Spanish cinema’

In addition to Cruz, Bardem and Iglesias, Spain also has a fourth horse in the Oscars race in the form of Alberto Mielgo’s “The Wiper”, which has been nominated for best animated short film.

“This is the best time for Spanish cinema,” said José Luis Rebordinos, director of the prestigious San Sebastian film festival.

“We are making a lot of cinema and audiovisual productions in Spain, as well as for streaming platforms, which is bringing a lot of work so that Spanish film technicians are getting better and better,” he said.


In this file photo taken on February 12, 2022, from left, Spanish film director Alberto Mielgo, Spanish actor Javier Bardem, Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias pose on the red carpet at their arrival at the 36th Goya awards ceremony at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia.  (AFP)
In this file photo taken on February 12, 2022, from left, Spanish film director Alberto Mielgo, Spanish actor Javier Bardem, Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias pose on the red carpet at their arrival at the 36th Goya awards ceremony at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia. (AFP)

Spain’s western-friendly landscapes have attracted Hollywood directors since the 1960s and are becoming an increasingly popular destination for filming series: Netflix, which set up its first European studios in Madrid in 2019, scored big hits with “Money Heist” and “Elite”.

Last year, the government said it wanted Spain to become Europe’s “audiovisual hub” and pledged to inject 1.6 billion euros ($1.76 billion) to expand the film and television production sector by 30%. by 2025.

“International critics are paying more and more attention to our cinematographic production thanks to figures like Almodóvar, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz”, said Rebordinos.

“They are finding ways to draw more attention to Spanish cinema.”

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