11 Spanish films you need to see

Soldados de Salamina/Soldiers of Salamis ( 2003 )

Film based on the book of the same name by Javier Cervas, a writer who has been known to whip up controversy over his own-brand mixture of reality and fiction.  A university professor searches for the republican soldier who helped the founder of the fascist Falange Española party escape from the firing squad.

Barrio/Neighbourhood (1998): 

Not all was well in José María Aznar’s good-times Spain.  For one, some kids were stuck in the summer heat of the Madrid neighbourhood alluded to in the film’s title.  Obviously, things got crazy.

En construcción/Under Construction (2001):

This documentary about postolympic Barcelona sheds light on the lives of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood now called El Raval, but formerly known only as ‘El Chino’ (‘The Chinese’).

Los santos inocentes/The Innocent Saints (1984):

The Spanish countryside, masters and servants.  This film, based on the Miguel Delibes novel of the same name, shows the way many centuries of power struggles have played out in rural Spain, with an oppressed, poverty-stricken working class dominated by wealthy landowners.  Fernando Fernan Gómez and Alfredo Landa were rewarded for theri poerfomances in Los Santos Inocentes with prizes at Cannes in 1984.

¿Qué hace una chica como tú en un sitio como este?/ What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?  (1978): 

This film shows Madrid as a city dusting itself off after decades of grey dictatorship.  Maybe one of the weaker films on this list, but What’s a Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? earns its place for a fledgeling Carmen Maura’s performance, as well as Movida group Burning.

Cría Cuervos (1976): 

Spain has always has skeletons in its closet, whether in your auntie’s wardrobe or the steel lockers of the Guardia Civil.  This fascinating Carlos Saura film conjures up a world full of the ghosts that haunt a little girl and her soldier father.

Caudillo (1974):

Basilio Martín Patino, a prolific Spanish documentary maker, had to make this film in secret due to its sensitive subject: General Franco himself.  A great film to start with if you want to learn about Franco and the Spanish people.

La Caza/The Hunt (1966): 

The Franco regime lasted 35 years and director Carlos Saura is razor-sharp in his portrayal of the leading players of the time in this tense drama, set on a hunt trip with three friends and Civil War veterans.  This is a Spanish version of Deliverance – and we promise it’ll make you sweat.

Historias de la radio/Stories on the Radio (1955): 

Once upon a time, the internet hadn’t even been dreamt up and television was yet to arrive in Spain.  This delicious comedy in three parts is such a giggle that Woody Allen copied one of the episoders for his homage to the world of radio, Radio Days.

Muerte de un ciclista/Death of a Cyclist (1955): 

Spain’s unusual version of Italian neorealism.  In this film, we see a grey era when the regime said one thing but did another.  This drama tells the story of a high-society couple who knock over a cyclist after a tryst.

Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall/Welcome, Mr Marshall (1953):

Are you in the mood for some postwar Spanish misery?  This is your film!  This comedy shows a Spanish village swabbing the decks for the arrival of some supposed American visitors.  The great Valencia director Luis García Berlanga’s ironic touch does the rest.  If you like this, check out Plácido, El verdugo or La escopeta nacional

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