Saturday, 20 June 2020

Spanish film made by mystery female director discovered during lockdown


Spanish film made by mystery female director discovered during lock-down

This article from last month once again serves as a reminder that there are still many lost or misattributed films from the early years of cinema just waiting to be discovered - and in this particular case not only examples from the usual English-speaking sources of Hollywood or British productions.

The film in this instance is an early example of a tourism documentary featuring as it does fascinating footage of the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca, still famous today as a holiday hot-spot.  Originally assumed to be a 1926 silent film directed by a man, this 8-minute "æsthetic documentary" - simply titled Mallorca - had been gathering dust on the shelves of the Filmoteca Española's archives for the best part of 40 years until lock-down gave archivists the opportunity to review and re-evaluate it.


The result is one of those remarkable rediscoveries that often come with the fresh re-examining of a film that has been left in storage, often wrongly-labelled, for a prolonged period of time.  Far from being a minor piece of 1920s local tourism footage by a male director it has now more or less been identified as an early 1930s example complete with soundtrack and by female director Maria Forteza (although how they came to miss that on the credits is anyone's guess) - making it possibly the first sound picture directed by a woman in Spain.


Although it sounds like there is still some work to be done to definitively date and ascribe this short film it is nevertheless a welcome find and I am pleased to see the specialists at the Filmoteca Española finally taking a proper interest in it - thanks in part to lock-down of all things!  It's importance to the history of Spanish cinema and women in film generally is obvious and I'm glad to see its rediscovery is prompting discussion about the importance of keeping - and more importantly regularly checking - a film archive.  Unfortunately the entire film is no longer available to view on their website but there are snippets on YouTube as part of Spanish news coverage (habla Español?) here and here.  Once again this find gives hope for the future of other early films presumed lost and with luck this won't be the last one to be rediscovered as a result of the coronavirus lock-down.

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