My favourite Spanish movies

When I visited my hometown in Spain last month I met several of my friends. One day we had dinner with one of my primary school friends and her fiancé. I forgot what we were talking about, but I mentioned I sometimes watched Spanish movies with C. “Why would you do that?”, said my friend’s fiancé. “Spanish movies are all so bad”. He’s not alone in this opinion: many people in Spain criticize Spanish movies all the time (and music and series too, by the way). I think this happens in other places too: the grass is always greener and movies and music from other countries are always better. At least I have heard Chinese people saying similar things.

So, are Spanish movies inherently bad? I don’t think so. Maybe when people say this they are thinking about some particular movies they didn’t like, or maybe they have something like an inferiority complex because obviously a Spanish movie doesn’t have the same budget and means as a Hollywood movie. But this doesn’t mean Spanish people, just because they are Spanish, cannot make good movies.

“You could watch instead foreign movies dubbed into Spanish so C. learns some Spanish”, he suggested. Well, I could do that, but… I hate dubbed movies and I watch Spanish movies with C. not only because of the language but, more importantly, because of the cultural context. Watching Spanish movies can help him understand how Spanish people think, talk to others, engage in relationships, what kind of topics interest us as a society, what kind of things we laugh or cry about. I noticed that since I live in China I started to appreciate more Spanish movies and music.

So, without further ado, this is a list with some Spanish movies I love.

Volver (To Return)

If you ask a foreign person who is Spain’s most famous film director, chances are they will reply Pedro Almodóvar. Many Spanish people dislike him, though. We have a saying that goes: No one is a prophet in his own land! My Korean friends in Beijing, for example, had never watched any movie by Kim Ki-duk. I haven’t watched all of Pedro Almodóvar’s films, but I liked the ones I watched. Volver is very enjoyable and Penélope Cruz is great in it. It mixes comedy and drama.

Blancanieves (Snow White)

The classic tale of Snow White but placed in the 1920s in Spain, silent and in black and white. Snow White is a bullfighter! I thought this movie was very original and visually very beautiful.blancanieves_poster

El verdugo (The Executioner)

A classic from 1963. A young man has problems finding a girlfriend because he works in a funerary. He finally gets married to an executioner’s daughter (who, of course, also had problems finding a partner!) and when the executioner retires, he convinces his son-in-law to replace him because the job also comes with an apartment. He ends up accepting because he thinks he will never have to execute anyone. Very funny black comedy.

El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)

I think most people know this one. The director and writer, Guillermo del Toro, is Mexican, but the actors are Spanish and the story is set in Spain during the 1940s. Spain did not participate in WW2 because our own civil war had just finished, but the dictator Franco supported the Fascists. The movie is about a little girl whose mother, a widow, remarries to a fascist military officer (interpreted by the great Sergi López). She finds a labyrinth and enters a fantasy world full of magical creatures but also disturbing monsters. This movie has the scariest monster EVER.

Arrugas (Wrinkles)

Animation movie based on a comic book by Paco Roca that won the Comic Book National Award in 2008. It’s the story of two old men who live in a nursing home. One of them is starting to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease but tries to hide it so he is not transferred to the floor for people who need assistance. Beautiful.wrinkles_arrugas_poster

Caníbal (Cannibal)

This one doesn’t have high ratings from viewers in Imdb, but I liked it a lot. It was filmed in Granada, the city where I attended university. The title pretty much tells what it is about, but there is a difference with other human-flesh eating movies: there is no blood. It’s more a love story than a gory film. The protagonist is a tailor who, obviously, hides a dark secret.

La isla mínima (Marshland)

A crime thriller about two detectives who investigate the disappearance of two girls in a village in the south of Spain in the 1980s.

La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In)

Another movie by Pedro Almodóvar, but this one is quite unusual for him. He usually tells stories about common women, but this one is about a man, a plastic surgeon who wants to create a very resistant artificial skin. theskinilivein-poster

There are many more Spanish movies I like, but 8 is the best number according to Chinese! I can do a second part in the future if needed.

Have you watched any Spanish movie? Did you like it?