Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Beyond the Sea: Seascapes and Migration in Contemporary Spanish Cinema

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2018), 95, (6), 637–656.

Abstract

The image of a dead migrant prone on a beach is a tragic yet commonplace icon of the early twenty-first century, symbolizing the catastrophic synergy amongst seascapes, migration and death in the contemporary cultural imaginary. While the images of three-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi that circulated in the summer of 2015 have recently reflected the potency of the image with regard to the (in) visibility of migrants and migration in contemporary society and culture, Spanish cinema has been engaging with this issue since the turn of the century. In this article I explore tensions between absence and presence with regard to interactions between seascapes and migration in five post-2000 Spanish films: En construcción (Guerín, 2001), Ilegal (Vilar, 2003), Retorno a Hansala (Gutiérrez, 2008), Amador (León de Aranoa, 2010) and Biutiful (Iñárritu, 2010). My contention is that these films foreground ethically motivated strategies of representation that seek to respectfully render migrants visible, or relatedly to draw attention to their invisibility.

La imagen de un migrante tirado en la playa es un símbolo trágico pero a la vez corriente del siglo veintiuno. Es un símbolo que representa la sinergía desastrosa entre el mar, la migración y la muerte en el pensamiento cultural de hoy en día. Mientras las fotos de Alan Kurdi, niño sirio con tres años, mostraron en el verano de 2015 el poder de la imagen con respecto a la (in)visibilidad de migrantes y migración en la cultura y la sociedad contemporáneas, el cine español ha analizado este tema desde el principio del siglo veintiuno. En este artículo, estudio la relación entre ausencia y presencia con respeto a representaciones del mar y de migración en cinco películas españoles producidas desde el año 2000: En construcción (Guerín, 2001), Ilegal (Vilar, 2003), Retorno a Hansala (Gutiérrez, 2008), Amador (León de Aranoa, 2010) y Biutiful (Iñárritu, 2010). Propongo que estas películas dan luz a estrategias de representación inspiradas por motivos éticos que tratan de hacer visibles los migrantes de una manera respetuosa, o hacer hincapié en su invisibilidad.

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O’Healy, Aine, 2010. ‘Mediterranean Passages: Abjection and Belonging in Contemporary Italian Cinema’, California Italian Studies, 1: 1, 1–19. Mediterranean Passages: Abjection and Belonging in Contemporary Italian Cinema California Italian Studies 1 1 19 Google Scholar

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Shields, Rob, 1991. Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity (London and New York: Routledge). Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity Google Scholar

Vázquez Montalbán, Manuel, 1992. Barcelonas, trans. Andy Robinson. (London and New York: Verso). Barcelonas Google Scholar

Ballesteros, Isolina, 2005a. ‘Embracing the Other: The Feminization of Spanish “Immigration Cinema”’, Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, 2.1: 3–14. Embracing the Other: The Feminization of Spanish “Immigration Cinema” Studies in Hispanic Cinemas 2.1 3 14 Google Scholar

Ballesteros, Isolina, 2005b. ‘Screening African Immigration to Spain: Las cartas de Alou and Bwana’, Chasqui, 34.2: 48–61. Screening African Immigration to Spain: Las cartas de Alou and Bwana Chasqui 34.2 48 61 Google Scholar

Ballesteros, Isolina, 2006. ‘Foreign and Racial Masculinities in Contemporary Spanish Film’, Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, 3.3: 169–85. Foreign and Racial Masculinities in Contemporary Spanish Film Studies in Hispanic Cinemas 3.3 169 85 Google Scholar

Ballesteros, Isolina, 2015. Immigration Cinema in the New Europe (Bristol, UK: Intellect). Immigration Cinema in the New Europe Google Scholar

Bauman, Zygmunt, 2004. Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts (Cambridge: Polity Press). Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts Google Scholar

Benelli, Elena, 2014. ‘Mediterranean Seafarings: Pelagic Encounters of Otherness in Contemporary Italian Cinema’, in Europe in Its Own Eyes, Europe in the Eyes of the Other, ed. David B. MacDonald and Mary-Michelle DeCoste (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press), pp. 255–70. Mediterranean Seafarings: Pelagic Encounters of Otherness in Contemporary Italian Cinema Europe in Its Own Eyes, Europe in the Eyes of the Other 255 70 Google Scholar

Berger, Verena, and Daniel Winkler, 2012. ‘Mediterranean Perspectives: Early Spanish and Italian Contributions to the Cinema of Irregular Migration (Giordana, Marra, Soler, Uribe)’, Cinémas: Revue d’études cinématographiques / Cinemas: Journal of Film Studies, 22: 2–3, 159–77. Mediterranean Perspectives: Early Spanish and Italian Contributions to the Cinema of Irregular Migration (Giordana, Marra, Soler, Uribe) Cinémas: Revue d’études cinématographiques / Cinemas: Journal of Film Studies 22 159 77 Google Scholar

Burkhart, Diana, 2010. ‘The Disposable Immigrant: The Aesthetics of Waste in Las cartas de Alou’, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, 11.2: 153–65. The Disposable Immigrant: The Aesthetics of Waste in Las cartas de Alou Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 11.2 153 65 Google Scholar

Cabello, Gabriel, 2005. ‘Construyendo tiempo: los ensayos cinematográficos de José Luis Guerín’, Ciberletras, 12: 1–17. Construyendo tiempo: los ensayos cinematográficos de José Luis Guerín Ciberletras 12 1 17 Google Scholar

Corbalán, Ana, 2015. ‘Searching for Justice in Return to Hansala by Chus Gutiérrez: Cultural Encounters between Africa and Europe’, in African Immigrants in Contemporary Spanish Texts: Crossing the Strait, ed. Debra Faszer-McMahon and Victoria L. Ketz (Farnham, UK: Ashgate), pp. 99–113. Searching for Justice in Return to Hansala by Chus Gutiérrez: Cultural Encounters between Africa and Europe African Immigrants in Contemporary Spanish Texts: Crossing the Strait 99 113 Google Scholar

Davies, Ann, 2012. Spanish Spaces: Landscape, Space and Place in Contemporary Spanish Culture (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press). Spanish Spaces: Landscape, Space and Place in Contemporary Spanish Culture Google Scholar

Deveny, Thomas, 2012. Migration in Contemporary Hispanic Cinema (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press). Migration in Contemporary Hispanic Cinema Google Scholar

Di Maio, Alessandra, 2013. ‘The Mediterranean, Or Where Africa Does (Not) Meet Italy: Andrea Segre’s A sud di Lampedusa (2006)’, in The Cinemas of Italian Migration: European and Transatlantic Narratives, ed. Sabine Schrader and Daniel Winkler (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars), pp. 41–52. The Mediterranean, Or Where Africa Does (Not) Meet Italy: Andrea Segre’s A sud di Lampedusa (2006) The Cinemas of Italian Migration: European and Transatlantic Narratives 41 52 Google Scholar

Eaude, Michael, 2007. Catalonia: A Cultural History (Cary, NC: Oxford University Press). Catalonia: A Cultural History Google Scholar

Flesler, Daniela, 2004. ‘New Racism, Intercultural Romance, and the Immigration Question in Contemporary Spanish Cinema’, Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, 1.2: 103–118. New Racism, Intercultural Romance, and the Immigration Question in Contemporary Spanish Cinema Studies in Hispanic Cinemas 1.2 103 118 Google Scholar

Flesler, Daniela, 2008. The Return of the Moor: Spanish Responses to Contemporary Moroccan Immigration (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press). The Return of the Moor: Spanish Responses to Contemporary Moroccan Immigration Google Scholar

Fouz Hernández, Santiago, and Alfredo Martínez Expósito, 2007. Live Flesh: The Male Body in Contemporary Spanish Cinema (London and New York: I. B. Tauris). Live Flesh: The Male Body in Contemporary Spanish Cinema Google Scholar

Fraser, Benjamin, 2012. ‘A Biutiful City: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Filmic Critique of the “Barcelona Model”’, Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, 9.1: 19–34. A Biutiful City: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Filmic Critique of the “Barcelona Model” Studies in Hispanic Cinemas 9.1 19 34 Google Scholar

Gordon, Avery F., 2008 [1997]. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination Google Scholar

Handyside, Fiona, 2014. Cinema at the Shore: The Beach in French Film (Oxford: Peter Lang). Cinema at the Shore: The Beach in French Film Google Scholar

Keating, Abigail, 2011. ‘All Roads lead to Piazza Vittorio: Transnational Spaces in Agostino Ferrente’s Documusical’, Studies in Documentary Film, 5: 2, 3, 197–209. All Roads lead to Piazza Vittorio: Transnational Spaces in Agostino Ferrente’s Documusical Studies in Documentary Film 5 197 209 Google Scholar

Lerner, Giovanna Faleschini, 2010. ‘From the Other Side of the Mediterranean: Hospitality in Italian Migration Cinema’, California Italian Studies, 1: 1, 1–19. From the Other Side of the Mediterranean: Hospitality in Italian Migration Cinema California Italian Studies 1 1 19 Google Scholar

Martínez Carazo, Cristina, 2007. ‘Deconstrucción/Reconstrucción: En construcción de José Luis Guerín (2001)’, Letras Hispanas, 4.2: 2–15. Deconstrucción/Reconstrucción: En construcción de José Luis Guerín (2001) Letras Hispanas 4.2 2 15 Google Scholar

Moreno Caballud, Luis, 2014. ‘Looking Amid the Rubble: New Spanish Documentary Film and the Residues of Urban Transformation (Joaquim Jordà and José Luis Guerín)’, Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas, 11.1: 61–74. Looking Amid the Rubble: New Spanish Documentary Film and the Residues of Urban Transformation (Joaquim Jordà and José Luis Guerín) Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas 11.1 61 74 Google Scholar

Noble, Fiona, 2014. ‘The Death of the Immigrant in Spanish Cinema’. [Online – Spanishcinephilia.wordpress.com. Spanish Cinephilia Blog, 14 October.] Available at: >http://spanishcinephilia.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/the-death-of-the-immigrant-in-spanish-cinema/> [accessed 15 March 2018]. Google Scholar

Noble, Fiona, 2015a. ‘The Politics of (the Image of) the Dead Child’. Spanish Cinephilia Blog, 8 September. [Online – Spanishcinephilia.wordpress.com.] Available at: >https://spanishcinephilia.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/the-politics-of-the-image-of-the-dead-child/> [accessed 15 March 2018]. Google Scholar

Noble, Fiona, 2015b. ‘Post-Transition Transitions: Childhood, Performance and Immigration in Post-Franco Spanish Cinema’, unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Aberdeen. Post-Transition Transitions: Childhood, Performance and Immigration in Post-Franco Spanish Cinema Google Scholar

Nuñez, Natalia, 2012. ‘Whose Vanguardist City? The Barcelona Urban Model as Seen from the Periphery in José Luis Guerín’s En construcción (2001)’, in Barcelona: Visual Culture, Space and Power, ed. Helena Buffery and Carlota Caulfield (Cardiff: University of Wales Press), pp. 89–103. Whose Vanguardist City? The Barcelona Urban Model as Seen from the Periphery in José Luis Guerín’s En construcción (2001) Barcelona: Visual Culture, Space and Power 89 103 Google Scholar

O’Healy, Aine, 2010. ‘Mediterranean Passages: Abjection and Belonging in Contemporary Italian Cinema’, California Italian Studies, 1: 1, 1–19. Mediterranean Passages: Abjection and Belonging in Contemporary Italian Cinema California Italian Studies 1 1 19 Google Scholar

Palladino, Mariangela, and Iside Gjergji, 2016. ‘Open “Hearing” in a Closed Sea’, Interventions, 18: 1, 1–18. Open “Hearing” in a Closed Sea Interventions 1 1 18 Google Scholar

Resina, Joan Ramon, 2008. ‘The Construction of the Cinematic Image: En construcción (José Luis Guerín, 2000)’, in Burning Darkness: A Half Century of Spanish Cinema, ed. Joan Ramon Resina and Andrés Lema Hincapié. (New York: State University of New York Press), pp. 255–76. The Construction of the Cinematic Image: En construcción (José Luis Guerín, 2000) Burning Darkness: A Half Century of Spanish Cinema 255 76 Google Scholar

Santaolalla, Isabel, 2005. Los ‘Otros’: etnicidad y ‘raza’ en el cine español contemporáneo (Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza). Los ‘Otros’: etnicidad y ‘raza’ en el cine español contemporáneo Google Scholar

Shields, Rob, 1991. Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity (London and New York: Routledge). Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity Google Scholar

Vázquez Montalbán, Manuel, 1992. Barcelonas, trans. Andy Robinson. (London and New York: Verso). Barcelonas Google Scholar

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Noble, Fiona