Story-telling and identity through film in Spain
Hi! I’m Nikki Tomlinson and I’m in my second year of a PhD in Spanish Studies. My project involves analysing films made in Spain in the past 10 years to see what they can tell us about regional identity. Spain is made up of 17 autonomous regions, a bit like counties in England, but they are often much larger as there are not as many of them. I’m researching two autonomous communities: Andalusia, the largest region in the country, in the south of Spain; and Catalonia, in the north-east.
The two regions of Andalusia and Catalonia have very different histories and cultures, but over the course of Spain’s history, they have often been unable to express an idea of what constitutes their own regional identity. Film is an incredibly powerful story-telling tool that can reach a huge number of people, so I use film to investigate what these stories can tell us about how each region perceives itself – and wants to be perceived – today. I do watch a lot of films for my research, but I find my project so interesting because I see it as combining several disciplines – cultural studies, politics, history, and even law and economics..!
At a time when debates surrounding national identity and what it involves are in the news on a daily basis, my topic feels exciting and relevant, and the field is certainly fast-paced! I have recently come back from fieldwork in Spain, where I have so far attended four film festivals in Andalusia and Catalonia. Film festivals play an important role in my research, as they can determine how many people see a film, or which countries those films are distributed to – often, if a film wins an award, it means that it can reach an international audience. I was able to see a huge number of recently-released films, as well as to meet filmmakers and discuss their work with them. I find it highly enjoyable seeing the changing shape of the film industry in the regions and the innovations that professionals are devising to continue making the films they want to make. I am able to keep in contact with the people I met at the events in Spain, and it’s very interesting to see people winning awards for their work. There are new developments every day, so it’s certainly a dynamic project to work on!
How I got here
I completed an integrated Masters in Modern Languages (specialising in French and Spanish) at the University of Manchester, which I loved. I then worked in a range of fields, from managing the development of a start-up business in Spain, to marketing, to teaching English as a foreign language! I had always thought that I wanted to take my studies of Spanish culture further, and while I was working in Andalusia as an English teacher, an idea for a proposal came to me. I finally bit the bullet and wrote to my previous lecturer at Manchester, explaining my idea. I put together a proposal and applied for funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I was delighted to receive the funding, and have never looked back!
Manchester is very lucky to have a branch of the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish language centre with a library, dance and culture courses and lots of activities: http://manchester.cervantes.es/en/default.shtm
There are a number of Spanish film festivals around the UK throughout the year, which are great for seeing a range of films from Spain and the Spanish-speaking world. One of these is the ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Festival, held at Manchester’s HOME arts centre around the Easter holiday: https://homemcr.org/event/viva-spanish-latin-american-festival-2017/
For more news and information about the Catalan film and television industry: http://www.catalanfilms.cat/en/index.jsp
And for Andalusia: http://www.fundacionava.org/