This course explores the development of Spanish cinema from the early 20th century to the present. Through the in-depth study of 18 full-length feature films and supported by secondary readings and other materials we will analyze the dialogue between Spanish cinematography and its social, political, and economic circumstances at key junctures of the nation’s cultural history. The course will highlight important facets of the Spanish star system as well as the auteurism of those directors who have achieved international acclaim by reworking a national film idiom within international frames of reference.


Learning objectives in this course concern, primarily, the study of film in its cultural context. This is emphasized in the assigned readings, lectures and discussions and through written and oral exercises. Students will learn to identify the style and thematic concerns of the major figures (directors, producers, actors) associated with Spanish national cinema. Supported by the secondary readings, students will achieve the ability to historicize these figures in relation to their political, social, and cultural context.

This practical understanding of the history of Spanish national cinema will lead students to a deeper appreciation, on the theoretical plane, of the concept of national cinema. The course is also designed to help students develop and consolidate their skills of film analysis and critical thinking.

No prior knowledge of Spain, Spanish or film is required. Some students may initially be more familiar than others with film as an art form, others may have more familiarity with the history and social context of modern Spain. Regardless of their background, all students will have greater understanding of each of these areas by the end of the semester.


Students will be assessed according to their ability to produce well-constructed analyses of Spanish film in context, in writing and orally. Engagement in class and compliance with all expectations described herein represent further bases for evaluation.

The final grade in this course will be determined as follows:

  • Two (2) personal movie reviews (20%)
    • The analysis of press reviews of Spanish cinema will allow us to focus on the genre of the film review. This is designed to help students develop their own critical language and aesthetic vision. Students will be expected to demonstrate what they learn through these exercises in two short in-class writing assignments.
  • Three (3) short comparative analyses (30%)
    • In these 3-4 page papers students are expected to develop a comparative and culturally contextualized analysis of 2-3 films focusing on a single formal element of film analysis (for instance, certain audio or visual elements of film editing, acting, or mis-en-scène). Students will submit the first two analyses via Moodle and they will write the third in class, as scheduled on the syllabus.
  • A final term paper analysis (ca. 8-10 pages; 30%)
    • This essay will be comparative and comprehensive in nature. It will allow the students to reflect on the relationship between reality and representation in Spanish cinema from the origins to the present.
  • Participation (20%)
    • Students are assessed daily in accordance with their level of preparation, punctuality, and participation. Preparation presupposes that students will view all moviesread the assigned material and formulate personal views with regard to both prior to class. The discussion notes for that you bring to each class will be taken as a sign of your preparation. Punctuality applies to arrival to class and to the submission of written assignments. Participation is also assessed in relation to the student’s willingness to contribute spontaneously to the collective learning experience through voluntary interventions in informal discussions and in the more structured oral exercises. Participation grades are recorded periodically throughout the semester on Moodle. Click here to view the rubric used to evaluate students participation.

Grades will be assigned in this course on a 100-point scale and will adhere to Wesleyan’s guidelines when converted to a final letter grade for the semester. Those guidelines, which are posted on the Registrar’s web site, are as follows:

GradeLowest numeric value GradeLowest numeric value
A93.3 D+66.6
A-90 D63.3
B+86.6 D-60
B83.3 E+56.6
B-80 E53.3
C+76.6 E-50
C73.3 F0

In assigning grades we adhere to the guidelines developed by Wesleyan’s Office of Academic Affairs (see Teaching Matters, p. 31), which are as follows:

A/A-Excellent in all or nearly all respects. The interest of the reader is engaged by the ideas and presentation. Effective organization and writing. Paper marked by originality of ideas.
B+Clear argument, clear writing, good evidence, appropriate response to question.
B/B-Technically competent, with perhaps a lapse here and there. The thesis is clear, properly limited, and reasonable, and the proposal is generally good but not distinguished. Use of evidence is sufficient.
C+/CA competent piece of work, but not yet good. More or less adequately organized along obvious lines. Thesis may be unclear or overly simple. Development is often skimpy. Use of evidence may be inadequate. Monotony of sentence structure is apparent and errors may be sprinkled throughout.
C-/D/D-A piece of work that demonstrates some efforts on the author’s part but that is too marred by technical problems or flaws in thinking or development of ideas to be considered competent work.
E/FFailing grade. Essay may not respond to assignment. Essay may be far too short. Grammar and style may be careless.

All required readings in this course are delivered electronically in pdf format via the online course syllabus, available on this web site. Anyone interested in learning how to annotate pdf documents on their electronic devices should consult with the ITS.

Instructions for written assignments will be posted on Moodle and students will submit their critical analyses and movie reviews there as well.

Students enrolled in SPAN301 will submit discussion notes for each class on the SPAN 301 Blog.

Students enrolled in SPAN265 will be assigned specific questions to address, in Spanish, on the SPAN 265 Blog.

The course resources page, also available on this web site, will be used for making available important reference tools and for posting materials related to specific class sessions.


Please refer regularly to this calendar for the screenings of our full-length feature films.

  • Most feature films will be discussed in the Monday classes. These filmes are screened on Sundays, at 5pm and at 8:30pm.
  • Occasionally a full-length feature films will be assigned for Wednesday’s class. These films are screened on Monday and Tuesday evening at 8pm.
  • Students may choose to attend the screening that best suits them (either 5pm or 8:30pm on Sunday for the Monday class; either Monday or Tuesday evening for the Wednesday class).
  • All screenings will be held in Fisk208 (unless we notify otherwise).
  • Students who foresee not being able to attend one of the screenings should discuss this with the professor before enrolling in the course.

The calendar of screenings is as follows:

2 Feb (Su)Luis Buñuel: Los olvidados (1950; The Young and the Damned; 77 min)
9 Feb (Su)Luis Buñuel: Viridiana (1961; 90 min)
10/11 Feb (Mo/Tu)Luis Buñuel: El ángel exterminador (1962; Exterminating Angel; 95 min)
16 Feb (Su)Luis García Berlanga, ¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! (1953; Welcome Mr. Marshall!; 78 min)
23 Feb (Su)Juan Antonio Bardem, Muerte de un ciclista (1955; Death of a Cyclist; 88 min)
1 Mar (Su)Carlos Saura, Cría cuervos (1975; Cría; 110 min)
22 Mar (Su)Víctor Erice, El espíritu de la colmena (1973; The Spirit of the Beehive; 95 min)
23/24 Mar (Mo/Tu)Vicente Aranda, Amantes (1990; Lovers; 103 min); exceptionally, this screening will take place in Fisk208
29 Mar (Su)Icíar Bollain, Te doy mis ojos (2003; Take my eyes; 109 min)
31 Mar (Su)Mario Camus, Los santos inocentes (1984; The Holy Innocents; 107 min)
6/7 Apr (Mo-Tu)Pedro Almodóvar: ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto? (1984; What Have I Done to Deserve This?; 101 min)
12 Apr (Su)Pedro Almodóvar: Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988; Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; 90 min)
13/14 Apr (Mo/Tu)Pedro Almodóvar: Todo sobre mi madre (1999; All about my mother; 101 min)
19 Apr (Su)Pedro Almodóvar: Volver (2004; 121 min)
26 Apr (Su)Isabel Coixet, La vida secreta de las palabras (2005; The Secret Life of Words; 115 min)
27/28 Apr (Mo/Tu)Alejandro Amenábar, Abre los ojos (1997; Open Your Eyes; 117 min)
3 Apr (Su)Alex de la Iglesia, La comunidad (2004; The Common Wealth; 105 min)
4/5 Apr (Mo/Tu)Guillermo del Toro, El laberinto del fauno (2006; Pan’s Labyrinth; 119 min)

Film is a form of artistic expression produced to be viewed on a large screen. As in most film courses at universities like Wesleyan, to the extent possible we aim to replicate the esthetic experience of viewing films that our film makers intended. Students taking this course are expected to embrace this principle and learn to appreciate its importance.

During screenings we ask that you adhere to these basic codes of conduct: Please turn off your cell phones and other electronic devicesDo not talk or otherwise disturb your classmates. Since you are responsible for keeping track of the detail of these films, note taking is essential. Take general notes during the screening and fill in clarifying details as soon after the screening as possible. If you choose to use a laptop to take screening notes, darken your screen and sit in the back of the cinema. So that you can concentrate fully on the movie and in compliance with the honor code, do not text or browse the web. If you have any doubts about your ability to adhere to these expectations during these sessions, you should reconsider your enrollment in this course.

Students forced to miss a screening due to circumstances beyond their control should contact Debbie Pozzetti (Fisk 401) to see about the possibility of scheduling a make-up.

Content and trigger warnings: The films included in this course have all been distributed for wide release in the United States, with different ratings. They do not contain material that Wesleyan students might not have encountered previously in their own film-viewing experience. I have attempted to flag sensitive material on the syllabus, whereever this seems most warranted. That said, anyone concerned about violence, sexuality or harsh language on film is strongly urged to contact the professor before taking this course.


The pledge is an affirmation of each student’s agreement to adhere to the standards of academic integrity set by Wesleyan’s Honor Code.  In order to promote constant awareness of the Honor Code, professors are encouraged to ask students to sign the pledge when submitting any academic exercise for evaluation.Your signature and pledge will appear on all work, quizzes, and exams submitted for evaluation as your guarantee that:

  • you have received no help of any kind from anyone (this refers especially to compositions);
  • you have only used a bilingual dictionary or one of the Spanish dictionaries mentioned above;
  • you have not used any type of translator such as those available on the Internet.

The pledges read as follows:

  • For papers and similar written workIn accordance with the Honor Code, I affirm that this work is my own and all content taken from other sources has been properly acknowledged.
  • For tests and other academic exercisesIn accordance with the Honor Code, I affirm that this work has been completed without improper assistance.

A note regarding electronic devices:

The use of the electronic devices in the classroom, as elsewhere, can be productive as well as distractive. Studies have determined that such distractive use as instant messaging and browsing the web is detrimental to students’ learning experience. Those studies have also shown that students tend to underestimate the negative effect of such distractions on their learning. Students may bring computers into the classroom for the sole productive purpose of consulting material related to the lesson or for taking notes. Any distractive use will be treated as an violation of the Honor Code and subject to Student Judicial Board consideration. Distractive use includes all forms of instant messaging (e.g., email, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging) or browsing Internet sites that are not related to the lesson. For the benefit of a rewarding learning experience, the distractive use of laptops in class is strictly forbidden.

All students are strongly advised to read carefully the section concerning the Wesleyan honor system that appears in the Student Handbook (p. 4).


Wesleyan University is committed to ensuring that all qualified students with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from its programs and services. To receive accommodations, a student must have a documented disability as defined by the ADA. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible.

If you have a disability, or think that you might have a disability, please contact Accessibility Services in order to arrange an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. Accessibility Services is located in North College, rooms 021/022, or can be reached by email ( or phone (860-685-5581).