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Antonio Banderas Curates Realism in Spanish Cinema

Even when he's just voicing Puss in Boots in Shrek movies, Antonio Banderas is one of Spain's most visible cultural exports. His collaboration with Antonio Banderasdirector Pedro Almadóvar on films such as the Oscar-nominated Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown established him as an international symbol of the Movida -- Spain's post-Franco counter-cultural movement -- while starring roles in Evita, The Mask of Zorro, Desperado and myriad other hits launched him as Hollywood royalty. And now, sharing his luster, the screen idol hopes to spotlight lesser-seen treasures from the Spanish vaults.

Banderas is the curator of a new film series, Realism in Spanish Cinema 1951 – 1963, spanning post-WWII films produced under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The series is comprised of 10 classic works selected for their artistic and historical merit.

They will be screened from May 10 to 19, 2010, at New York's courtly Cervantes Institute. Banderas, who serves on the Cervantes advisory board, conceived the idea for the program. He will be on hand to open the series on May 10, prior to the screening of Furrows / Surcos, by José Antonio Nieves Conde.

Each selection mounts a veiled critique of 1950s and 1960s life in Spain, with its considerable challenges and repressions. As the Generalissimo enforced cultural politics to engineer national homogeneity, work deemed out of step with Catholic, family and fascist ideals was largely nixed. Filmmakers who failed to toe the line faced incarceration or worse.

This harsh imperative gave rise to artistic sleights of hand that make watching the era's films an adventure in decoding. Not unlike their Eastern Bloc counterparts, SpanishScene from the film filmmakers had to shroud their social and political commentary in sly intimations in order to slip past the national censors. Allusion, symbolism and metaphor entered the narrative and visual foreground, and put a fresh spin on Neo-Realism. 

A particular blend of tragicomedy also filled Spanish screens of the era. As Banderas points out, "What do expect from a country that produced Goya?" 

Most of the Realism in Spanish Cinema titles participated in or earned prizes at international festivals. (Surcos, Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!, Muerte de un Ciclista and Los golfos had a Cannes Film Festival connection, while Venice FF united El cochecito, Calle Mayor and El verdugo, leaving Luis Buñuel's Viridiana one for the film history archives.)

While French, Italian and other European productions from the post-war era have been celebrated around the world, Spanish cinema of the '50s has yet to enjoy broad distribution in the US. Realism in Spanish Cinema seeks to redress this imbalance.

All of the films are in Spanish with English subtitles. Each will receive one screening, beginning with the opening night selection. Admission is gratis.

An annotated listing of the films is available at

Realism in Spanish Cinema 1951 - 1963
May 10 to 19, 2010

Cervantes Institute New York
211 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
212 308 7720

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