My parents are the embodiment of a film industry love story. A costume designer from Nebraska meets an up-and-coming Italian cinematographer on a 90s indie film set and the rest is history. I grew up watching Academy Award screeners and engaging with my parents’ sharp film analysis. Fast forward to now and here I am studying at the University of Seville. Through my beloved contemporary Spanish cinema class and my newfound free time, I have watched many, many Spanish short films. Here is my comprehensive list of 5 Spanish short films that made me feel something.
1. Miradas Que Hablan
As said by the director, Marc Vadillo, “Cada día miles de miradas esconden bonitas historias,” which means “Everyday thousands of eyes hide beautiful stories.” The story is one we have all likely lived: strangers locking eyes on the subway in a silent realization of mutual interest. The film reads like a nearly forgotten memory of a person who you fell in love with and gazed at for the last time all in the same minute. One thing that’s really striking to me is the music choice. I love when music grows louder and fades in accordance with the main character’s own headphones. The film starts out with a mellow lofi-beat but once the boy is alone again there is a new sadder song; the instrumental sample of a song talks about missed opportunities and heartbreak. The perfect melody for a melancholy and bittersweet story.
2. Al Nacer
I feel a weird sort of bittersweet heartsickness to be leaving Seville so soon, and that’s why this film spoke to me. Made exclusively by Sevillians, this short follows an old man who spends his time drawing the city and finds an unlikely friendship in a little boy. Although a little-known film, everything from the wardrobe to the emotions makes the story seem like an anecdote told by an old friend. Watching this movie from a bench in Maria Luisa park near the swan fountain, I was surprised to find my exact location shown during the first scene. I recognized places like Plaza de España, Torre de Oro, Puente de Triana, El Alcazaba, and the cathedral throughout. The love these filmmakers have for Seville was echoed in my own heart.
3. El Orden de Cosas
This cortometraje, which tangles with the dark theme of gender violence, is as gut-wrenching as it is thoughtful. Directed by the Alenda brothers, the film follows the progression of a marriage from newlyweds to the abused and abusive. El Orden de Cosas literally means the order of things, demonstrating what it is to be stuck in the cycle. The film appears to be chronological but we notice that Julia seems to remain young for the entirety of it. The sequences show what would happen with her life if she doesn’t break the cycle, almost like a prophecy.
We also see the hold toxic masculinity has on abusers during the scene with the husband’s brothers. The camera shows how short the husband stands beside his brothers as they chide him for not disciplining his wife enough. We see how abuse has persevered through his family history with the belt being passed down through generations.
The short film is a metaphorical masterpiece. The bathtub is a symbolic metaphor for gender violence. It serves as a sort of cage for Julia and there are many identical bathtubs in the end, showing how the situation is not an anomaly but rather common. Water is another symbol. Water dripping continues throughout the entire thing as Julia slowly gains the strength to leave, even as her husband continually drains it. Water represents freedom as Julia is finally able to reach her salvation through swimming up.
4. Una Buena Abogada
“A Good Lawyer.” The power of this short is found in how captivating the acting is. There are only two main characters: the lawyer and the homicide convict. This lawyer convinces the criminal that she will argue to evade his inevitable death sentence despite all the horrible things he has done. A strong female character, the lawyer proves to be as cunning as she is articulate and educated. Only after she gets the man to sign away his life to her does she reveal her true intentions. She will get him put in the worst, most violent jail where he will live out the rest of his miserable life. The final camera angles and lighting sing a dark lullaby around the convict as the lawyer proves to be a deceiving robin-hood of justice. The film plays with the idea that the revenge-sodden argument for the death penalty is rather contradictory in how a life sentence can be worse than a quick death.
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, this 2015 rom-com short features Dakota Johnson and Quim Gutiérrez. The storyline itself is rather simple but cute. A Spanish boy likes this American girl but does not speak good enough English. This one is meaningful to me because of the nostalgic imagery. The scenes portray Spain as a sunny, dreamy place in endless summer, like a midsummer dream. It felt like a reflection of my life for the last four months, just carefree and perfect. I was even able to recognize the white costal pueblicito of Eivissa, Ibiza in the film. Warm lighting warms the heart as much as it enhances the vintage-style indie short.