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Story-telling and identity through film in Spain

by YPU Admin on March 3, 2017, Comments. Tags: film, Humanities, Identity, PhD, Research, Spain, and UoM

Introduction

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.


In Depth

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!

Going Further

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/

 

Investigating Latin American Culture in Manchester

Introduction

My name is Nicola and I’m in the third year of a PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies. I did A-levels in Spanish, English Literature and History and went on to study Spanish at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, spending my year abroad in the north of Chile. After returning to Chile for another year to teach English, and then doing a Masters in Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester, I began my PhD which looks at how members of the British public engage with Latin American culture in the city of Manchester.


In Depth

The first thing to point out about studying Spanish (or any language) at university level is that it’s not just about the language! While your language skills are obviously important and will be developed, you will also spend lots of time studying foreign cultures and how other people around the world live and express themselves. This can involve studying literature, film, music, art, history, religion and indigenous cultures. And, in the case of Spanish, you don’t just study Spain, but also Latin America!

After doing my undergraduate degree and Masters, and living in Chile, I found myself particularly interested in how Latin America is perceived in Britain. Latin American culture, such as salsa classes, music, food and films have become popular in this country over the past couple of decades, yet Latin Americans are a relatively small immigrant population in the UK and not many people travel there, although both have started to increase in recent years. My research therefore investigates how Latin American culture is produced in the city of Manchester and how members of the public consume it.

My research focuses in particular on the annual ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival at the Cornerhouse cinema. I analyse how the film festival is produced, the reasons why they choose some films over others, why they choose particular images to publicise the festival. By interviewing members of the audience, I can find out whether these choices influence the way members of the audience envisage Latin America, or if there are other factors to be considered, such as how the media portrays Latin America. My research also investigates what attracts British people to Latin American culture, especially whether it stems from a cosmopolitan concern to understand others around the world, something particular to Latin American culture and/or disenchantment with contemporary British culture and society.


Going Further

See what you think of the ¡Viva! film festival at their website: http://www.cornerhouse.org/viva2014?no-redir

For information on studying Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Manchester: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/splas

For more information on Latin Americans in the UK, you might like to read this report on the Latin American community in London: http://www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/docs/research/latinamerican/48637.pdf