Spanish cinema reflects many of the tensions that have shaped the development of the Spanish nation over the twentieth century. One pivotal conflict, that between traditionalism and cultural modernization, is mirrored in the efforts to define film both as a cultural product that reflects the values and customs of the community that produced it, and as a commodity that circulates beyond the local community to international markets. This national cinema project is further complicated by political upheaval and the reformulation of the Spanish state. The crucible for modern Spain, the civil war (1936–1939), profoundly shaped the nature of the long postwar period. With the post-Franco transition to democracy, the 1978 constitution granted partial autonomy to seventeen regional communities, or states. In two of these regions, Catalonia and the Basque country, film production partially funded by the state supported the goal of stabilizing regional cultural identity. Under the aegis of the European Economic Community, which Spain formally entered in 1986, Spanish cinema came into an intimate and sustained relation with other European cinemas. At various moments in its history, therefore, Spanish cinema has been used to play out the scenarios of traditionalism and cultural modernization; localism and internationalism; the nation as a unified community; and the counter forces of micro- and macro-regional cultures. The threads of all these tendencies are found throughout the history of Spanish cinema.

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