Between the Berlinale and the Oscars, will it finally be the great moment of Spanish cinema?

Catalan director Clara Simón, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem could be evidence that Spain’s moment on the big screen is finally here. But, is a Golden Bear at the Berlinale and four Spanish Oscar nominees proof that Spanish cinema is finally making its way?

Unlike some countries with a very strong cinematographic DNA, Spain has so far struggled to carve out a niche for itself on the international scene. To date, only one Spanish director, Luis Buñuel, has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival; for Viridiana in 1961.

“That Penelope’s nomination is for a role in Spanish is extraordinary, historic for the Spain brand,” said Javier Bardem, Cruz’s husband. when were the oscar nominations announced this year.

Spanish cinema, long lagging behind other European rivals such as Italy and France, has finally started to catch up. Carla Simón’s triumph in Berlin for ‘Alcarràs’ is proof of this.

According to Variety, Cruz is currently in the fight to be the president of the Cannes festival jury, a distinction that was already awarded in 2017 to Pedro Almodóvar, by far the most appreciated Iberian director abroad.

The actress already won the Oscars in 2009, but for the American film ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’. This time, if Cruz wins for her role in ‘Parallel Mothers’ by Pedro Almodóvar, It would be a one hundred percent Spanish victory.

Why has Spanish cinema had trouble making its way?

Film production can be an important form of soft power, just look at the example of South Korea, but Spanish films seem to have lagged behind on the international stage.

“Spanish cinema has had many problems getting through the doors of international festivals,” says Pilar Martinez-Vasseur, director of the Nantes Spanish Film Festival.

Spanish films released abroad were often not identified as Spanish, explains Martinez-Vasseur. For example, who knows that the psychological horror ‘The Others’, starring Nicole Kidman, was directed by Alejandro Amenábar?

“In Spain we still have the idea that Spanish cinema is bad, that it is a nest of communists, that directors who do nothing and receive subsidies are empowered,” laments the director.

Martinez-Vasseur wants more support from the Spanish government for the sector. Cinema is certainly less financed in Spain than across the Pyrenees in France.

However, after a slow start, the industry has learned to find its place in a globalized ecosystem according to Beatriz Navas, general director of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts.

“It takes a culture broth that is not made overnight (…) and enough cooking time for the works to get the recognition they deserve,” he says.

Make Spain the cinematographic hub of Europe

In addition to Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Alberto Iglesias, Alberto Mielgo’s short film, ‘The Wiper’, is also nominated for the 2022 Academy Awards.

“Spanish cinema is experiencing its best moment,” says José Luis Rebordinos, director of the prestigious San Sebastián film festival.

“There is a lot of cinema right now in Spain, with platforms that give a lot of work and allow Spanish technicians to be better,” he explains.

Spain, whose western landscapes have attracted Hollywood since the 1960s, is increasingly popular among series production platforms: Netflix, which opened its first European studios in Madrid in 2019, has broadcast successful Spanish series such as Casa de Papel or Elite.

For a year, the left government has shown its willingness to “make Spain the audiovisual hub of Europe” and to increase production in its territory by 30% until 2025 by injecting 1,600 million euros.

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

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