Spanish subscription cinema and literature

Site: dolanguages
Course: dolanguages
Book: Spanish subscription cinema and literature
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Date: Sunday, 14 April 2024, 11:07 PM


The dolanguages resources are a systematic approach to teaching literature through the target language in class.  They consist of * full page by page vocabulary* detailed gapped summary (8 pages average)* searching questions* contextualised grammar for enrichment and analysis* essay preparation tools with sample plan and essay* links to the best external resources.  They will save you much preparation time and enhance the learning experience.

All the Spanish content on the site is available to subscribers to the Spanish package at £20.   You can purchase your subscription for Spanish only here, or you could opt for all languages at £45.Your login details will be set up manually and sent to your email address.

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1. Find out more about exercise types-cinema

Studying cinema as we have seen is a challenge as sometimes capturing the message of the film through the prism of a range of senses can seem out of reach especially when working in the target language.    The dolanguages resources below contain the following elements (not all necessarily all of them) to help you tackle.

Studying literature requires a long-term strategy, commencing with a reading of the book for enjoyment in the target language, no little challenge when there is a huge body of unknown vocabulary.    The dolanguages resources below contain the following elements (not all necessarily all of them) to help you tackle this project successfully.

Full Spanish-English page by page vocabulary list (literature only)

The vocabulary list is the activity which will save you the most time, particularly if you are a non-native speaker of English.   The list can be downloaded in pdf format for students to flick through on a mobile phone or on an ipad.  

Gapped summary with full vocabulary

The summaries capture the essential elements of the film/book at the level of detail required at the same time as requiring students to find the appropriate part of key verbs.   This provides a quick aide-mémoire of the film when required as well as boosting vocabulary relevant to the content.


Detailed questions covering the full film/book require detailed recall of the content and can be used orally and/or in writing.   


The character profile tool gives a full range of appropriate adjectives to enable students to describe protagonists in a sophisticated manner.   Suggested sentence starts are given to encourage a high quality of language.

.Contextualised grammar

The A factor exercises concentrate on encouraging students to vary the structures they use for writing the essay, including the present participle, the passive and the present subjunctive.    Exercises are given in context covering the full length of the film/book.

Multi-tense tool

Students appreciate being able to see examples of contextualised sentences with key verbs used in the full range of tenses in a simple exercise to increase awareness

Direct/Indirect speech

Students link direct speech quotations to the protagonists and then transform the direct speech to indirect speech sentences, a key process for giving key evidence in essay writing.

Essay planning and sample essay

An essay plan using a template is used with advice on creating each step of the process.

The sample essay is designed to demonstrate successful essay techniques.

Modified essays

Student essays with comments on how to improve them and in some cases corrected versions.

Useful external links

There is a considerable amount of useful material available from film/literature/history related websites, universities and exam boards and we have linked to some of the best examples.

2. El laberinto del fauno

el laberinto del fauno

Reasons to study this film

This is one of the most celebrated films of Spanish cinema and one that really leaves an impression.   If one is studying the Franco period it gives an idea of the sheer cruelty of the regime.    It is also pervaded by magical realism which is typical of Spanish and South American culture.

The interest of the film

Set in the period after the end of the Spanish Civil War when Franco's police and troops are rooting out opposition from rebels, the film combines a fantastical fairy tale with the stark reality of the time.   A young girl, step daughter of a sinister army captain, whose destiny is to return to her regal position in the underworld comes with her pregnant mother to a mill where she encounters the faun who sets her the task of finding the keys which will enable her to escape her earthly existence.  Del Torro in a real tour de force weaves the fantastical story together with the incredibly violent present to produce a stunning film which leaves one emotionally exhausted by the end.  This is understandably the most studied Spanish film in the UK and one which is a challenge both to watch and analyse.

IMDB reviews

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el laberinto del fauno

3. Solas


Reasons to study this film

A simple, very effective film exploring relationships in a very humanitarian and sensitive manner.     Studying this film will back up work around the family, the role of women in society and social problems.

The interest of the film

This harrowing film involves a  daughter Maria, her mother Rosa and the rocky relationship with the abusive father figure.  We learn that the father had refused to allow his daughter to get an education and she is in a dead end job wanting nothing more than to be a mother, having just become pregnant.

The film slowly turns round on the path to redemption as  Maria achieves some happiness from an unexpected quarter.

IMDB reviews

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4. Volver


Reasons to study this film

Typically this film is about women and their situation and has the director's usual glossy look and feel.   It covers themes around the family, the role of women and much more.   Who wouldn't study an Almodóvar if there's one on the syllabus?

The interest of the film

Based in the La Mancha area in which Almodóvar was brought up, Volver has a stellar cast of female actress who play out a film where once again the female condition and  identity are key themes.   We see the women of the town spring-cleaning the graves of their kinsfolk as the film opens and then are drawn into a world where women rule.  Raimunda and Soledad, two sisters each have a drama unfold around them;  Paula, Raimunda's daughter kills her father, or step father, when he attempts to rape her and the women's mother, who is supposedly dead hitches a lift to Madrid in her daughter's boot. These parallel events set in a motion a series of events which involve scenes of realism, melodrama and magical realism in a film that always fascinates.   There is much to discuss in this fast paced, very human film which was very well received when it came out.

IMDB reviews

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5. Como agua para chocolate

Como agua para chocolate

Reasons to study this film

An action packed novel that is popular with young people .

The interest of the novel

Never a dull moment in Esquivel's passionate, very atmospheric novel. The story traces the life of Tita de la Garza from the age of fifteen - born on the kitchen table, Tita's life is centred around cooking.  It is presented in twelve chapters, each allocated a month and each preceded by a Mexican recipe, which will play a central role in the coming events.

Set on the Mexican-US border in a period of upheaval, the novel demonstrates the power of love to overcome barriers, as young Tita is forbidden from marrying the love of her life, Pedro who instead is pushed towards her sister Rosaura.  The novel employs magical realism to blend the supernatural with the ordinary - the food Tita cooks conspires to influence dramatically key events.

In brief, the novel is rich in themes (i.e. self-growth), worthy of study, and very accessible to students, despite its length.

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Como agua par chocolate

6. El coronel no tiene quien le escriba

el coronel no tiene quien le escriba

Although short, this novella manages to incorporate much of the malaise which affects South America, and particularly, Columbia.  The unnamed colonel, who lives in poverty with his asthmatic wife, has been waiting for years for his military pension; the letter he goes to fetch each time the postal boat comes in never appears.

Political and religious repression hang over the small town and we learn that the colonel's son lost his life as a result of this.  The only hope of redemption for the couple is to sell the champion fighting cock left to them by the son. In fact, the main thrust of the novella revolves around the colonel's attempt to get a good price for it.

Written outside the tradition of magical realism for which he is known, Márquez presents us with an engaging story, brimming with humanity and atmosphere; we can almost feel the stress of the population, as the heat builds.

In short, it is a rather accessible novella, which will serve to introduce students to a Nobel prize-winning author.

Goodreads reviews

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El coronel no tiene quien le escriba

7. Réquiem por un campesino español

requiem por un campesino espanol

A short, very poignant novella in which a priest is getting ready to conduct a requiem mass for Paco, a young peasant who was killed by the Nationalist forces at the outbreak of the Spanish civil war.  

Three narrative threads are interwoven with the priest recalling his relationship with Paco over the years, the altar boy relating Paco's life in song and the whole being framed in Mosén Millán's exhausted present day life.

A very popular choice for A level students, the language and topic matter are very accessible.

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Requiem por un campesino espanol

8. La casa de Bernarda Alba

la casa de bernarda alba

Finished in 1936 only a few months before his death, this play has a cast of only women:  Bernarda Alba and her seven daughters.  On the death of her husband, the mother declares a period of mourning of seven years. This, added to the fact that she considers none in the village good enough for her daughters, builds up latent tension in the play.

Only Angustias, who has inherited money from her father, Bernarda's first husband, is eligible to court a man - although she doesn't know that her younger, prettier sister Adela is already secretly courting her intended, Pepe.  So all the makings of a tragedy here in this encapsulation of the hypocrisies and constraints which beset a Spain that could make life so claustrophobic and miserable.

In short, La casa de Bernarda Alba is a short play, presented in very accessible language, which has much to discuss and study.

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La casa de Bernarda Alba