Franco and the Spanish Civil War
Films that were previously regarded as being entertainment and an art form were used as propaganda during the war. Each side of the war used Spanish film to promote their agenda, censor unwanted information, and discredit the opposition.
A large number of actors went into exile as a result of the Pre-Franco side establishing the National Department of Cinematography. Franco’s regime would also ensure that dubbing became obligatory. Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel wrote a short movie at this time, España 1936, which was akin to a realistic documentary, largely because it included genuine news footage.The 1950s, 60s, and 70s were a collaborative period between Italy, France, and Spain. The Luis Buñuel film Tristiana was a joint effort between the three countries. Many Sword and Sandal movies, along with Westerns, were shot in Southern Spain by filmmaking teams of mixed nationality. Spain was also used for a backdrop in many American films like Dr Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. In 1962, there was a new Director of Spanish Cinema, José María García Escudero, who helped spur on Spanish film and Official Spanish School of Cinema. A number of new Spanish filmmakers came out of this period, particularly from the school. These filmmakers had a tendency to be more left-wing, opposing General Franco’s dictatorial regime.
Spanish film censorship was largely imposed by Franco. The censors weren’t given any specific guidelines or rules to adhere to. Each movie, therefore, was subject to the personal biases and opinions of individual censors. All movies in a language other than Spanish were either banned or dubbed. The dubbing wasn’t always direct, however. The dubbers took advantage of this device to modify or erase dialogue that that didn’t fit with their agenda. Some Spanish filmmakers immediately followed the rules to ensure they didn’t lose out on payment coming their way.
From the Democratic Period onwards
The Spanish made the move towards democracy once Franco had passed on. Among the early steps in this transition was a more tolerant attitude towards censorship in Spanish film. This included allowing films in other languages, with Castilian Spanish being an exception. Unshackled by this new-found creative freedom, a large number of Spanish directors made films centred around controversial subjects that would never have been allowed under Franco. Movies in Spanish regions were successful, thanks to New Basque Cinema and the Catalan Institute of Cinema.
The most common styles seen in Spain’s democratic cinema are comedies from Madrid, as well as from Fernando Colomo, humorous and complex melodramas from Pedro Almodóvar, black comedies from Santiago Segura, and action flicks from Alejandro Amenábar. The film industry in Spain is thriving and is widely regarded as being of a very high standard, both technically and creatively. Each aspect of Spanish cinema has been shown love at the annual Goya Awards since 1987. The ceremony is staged in January of each year and is essentially the Spanish equivalent to the Academy Awards.