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Thursday, March 27, 2014 (read 4875 times)
Spanish Stereotypes: Ocho apellidos vascosby Lauris
I assume that all teachers of Spanish as a foreign language, or all teachers of any language for that matter, feel quite pleased when they come across relevant material they can use in the classroom. We’re constantly on the hunt for that perfect article, song, or movie to include in our language lessons.
That’s why a few years ago, six to be exact, when the French film phenomenon Bienvenue chez les Ch’Tis came out, French teachers were delighted to have new teaching material endorsed by the sheer number of its viewers; Bienvenue broke just about every box office record in France. The different accents used by characters from the north amused French students around the world. An Italian remake was made in the form of Benvenuti al Sud, a nearly identical version adapted to Italy’s geolinguistic circumstances, a film that also broke box office records in that country.
Spaniards were forced to wait in eager anticipation for our own version… until now. Ocho apellidos vascos was just released in theaters around Spain. It’s a comedy from Emilio Martínez Lázaro, a director with a long albeit not very extensive body of work which includes a series of quality titles: films such as Los peores años de nuestra vida, Carreteras secundarias, El otro lado de la cama, and Las trece rosas, all confirm Martínez Lázaro’s filmmaking skill.
This Spanish movie is highly recommended for any intermediate level Spanish student (and for Spanish teachers of course). Students shouldn’t have any serious comprehension problems with this one, and it comes with the advantage of exposing students to some of Spain’s most recognizable regional stereotypes, and in particular the cultural contrasts between the south (Andalucía) and the north (the Basque country). According to long standing stereotypes, people from Andalucía are friendly, open and expressive while those from the Basque country are more serious and less expressive.
It’s common to come across pretty funny examples of these attitudes, however it’s difficult to find one that does not simply indulge in the use of the easy wisecrack. Martínez Lázaro’s film goes far beyond the realm of the “cheap joke”. The script was written by Borja Cobeaga and Diego S. José, the screenwriting duo who have already had a hit with Pagafantas. The music is by Fernando Velázquez (Lo imposible) who achieves an unusual fusion that blends castanets and txalapartas, effectively capturing the Basque-Andalucía atmosphere that envelopes the story’s characters. These “ocho apellidos”, or eight surnames, make reference to the stereotype of Basque people taking great pride in being “full blooded” Basques in contrast to “Spaniards” who are the products of a nearly infinite mix genes.
The plot is quite simple: a Basque girl is out partying in Seville when she meets a prototypical Sevillano guy: a happy-go-lucky joker sporting a slick hair style. The two experience an almost explosive culture shock. The Sevillano will take a trip to a small coastal town in the Basque country where he will encounter a feminist who hates all Andalucíans, forcing him to attempt to pass himself off as a local.
The fantastic Clara Lago, who is from Madrid, effortlessly slips into her role. Her antagonist, Rafa the Sevillano, is played by Dani Rovira, a relatively famous comedian who proves he can also act. They are joined by Carmen Machi and Karra Elejalde, who play a couple of wonderful secondary characters, masterfully providing support to the young protagonists.
If you’re planning on seeing this film, prepare for an hour and 45 minutes of wholesome laughter and empathy with the film’s characters. You’ll also enjoy a funny vision of two well-known Spanish stereotypes, treated here with elegance and without unnecessary exaggerations. Perhaps the only time things get a little forced is at the end… after all the careful sensitivity however, it can almost be forgiven.
As a lesson in intercultural Spain, this movie seems specifically made for Spanish language class, whether you’re showing one scene or the entire film. Make sure you pick it up on DVD or watch it on a movie channel, always respecting copyright laws.
Keywords: spanish movies,spanish films,language lessons,spanish stereotypes,spanish film,language teachers