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The History of Spanish Cinema Part 1

There’s no shortage of talented actors in Spain and when you combine that fact with that of its award-winning directors, you have a very strong film industry on your hands.

With that in mind, it’s understandable that any film buff would want to see some of the more recognised and respected films that Spain has been responsible for, ranging from old classics to modern masterpieces. You can see Hollywood star Penelope Cruz in one of her finer performances in Volver, or if you prefer original content, perhaps Abre los Ojos would be more suited to you (you may know its remake, Vanilla Sky, and which also starred Penelope Cruz).

If you’re really artistically minded, there’s always the masterpiece Un Chien Andalou, directed by Luis Buñuel and created by Salvador Dali. They do away with rational thinking, providing an extraordinary contrast, along with a passion that will fill you with excitement. It’s of little wonder then that Spanish cinema has enjoyed such longevity as a popular art form, undergoing an interesting development path along the way. From the early beginnings of Spanish film to recent blockbusters, Spain has long been a pioneer in the film industry. And now, here’s an introduction to the history of Spanish film.

Early Spanish cinema

The history of Spanish film began in the late 19th century. Barcelona held Spain’s very first film exhibition in 1895. The following year, both Barcelona and Madrid started to screen movies made by the Lumière brothers, two of the most famous filmmakers involved in the early history of film. The first Spanish-made movies were shown in 1897. It’s unclear as to which came first but some of the very first Spanish films included the likes of Plaza del puerto en Barcelona. Among the first Spanish directors to be recognised globally was Segundo de Chomón. The filmmaker spent much of his working time in France and Italy but still managed to produce such Spanish films as 1908’s El hotel eléctrico.

Silent film

The silent film industry in Spain was focused around Barcleona in 1914. Period Spanish epics (‘españoladas’) were popular during this time. Among the more well-known of these were films from Florían Rey. In 1928, the film industry in Spain focused on Madrid when the film society was set up by Ernesto Giménez Caballero and Luis Buñuel. The latter created a film with Salvador Dali called Un chien andalou’, which went on to become one of the more well-known avant-garde Spanish films of the time.

The introduction of sound

When films made with audio were introduced, the Spanish were late to the party. In 1931, a number of foreign films with sound made their way to Spain, which negatively impacted the domestic film industry. In response, Manual Casanova established CIFESA: Compañía Industrial Film Española S.A. (the Spanish Industrial Film Company Inc.). This helped to establish sound in Spanish film. CIFESA also produced numerous films and went on to become one of Spain’s largest ever production companies, providing support to young filmmakers, such as Luis Buñuel.