Film: 5082

Places + Locations | 1930 | Sound | B/W

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Synopsis:

A non-diegetic commentary guides us through a documentary film which explores the poor, rural communities in Western Spain, a few years before the Spanish Civil War broke out. The film provides us with some disheartening images of the malnourished peasants, starvation - an extensive period of time was obviously spent charting their daily lives. There are also impressive images of the surrounding landscapes, of local celebrations and of their proud history.

Intertitle, "These scenes were filmed in 1932 shortly after Spain became a REPUBLIC./ Before then non had known, or cared, how the HURDANOS, whom you will see in this picture, lived./ The Spanish peasant is perhaps the most poverty stricken in Europe. It is because he wanted a better life for himself that Spain has been plunged into war."

Hand-drawn map depicting central Europe and a male voice-over begins. Map of Spain with several place names highlighted. Close-up of part of the county, Las Hudes, which is south of Salamanque and north of Carcares, near the Portuguese border is underlined. Images of Las Hurdes - a village which is inhabited by the Hurdanos - three women in long dark dresses walk up the narrow pathway that forms the street which has tall stone buildings lining it on either side. A local man rides a donkey up the slight incline of a narrow, stoned road with three-storeyed buildings on either side of it, another man follows leading a donkey by a rope and a third man appears from offscreen - they are all wearing traditional rural outfits. The camera pans upwards onto the buildings in a street - a church is in the background. The church - a simple, white brick building. A stone wall houses two human skulls and a place to donate religious offerings, whilst a stone crucifix stands on the top of the wall. The rooftops of the buildings nearly touch each other in the criss-cross of the narrow streets. The camera pans up the houses which appear slightly unstable and not well engineered. A boy in a beret stands by a wall which has two door openings - a mongrel dog looks out of the right doorway and a bull appears out of the left doorway, gently ushered by a small boy - a man comes into the frame leading a donkey and cart laden with bundles of firewood. Close-up of an inscription which is carved into the stone above the house's doorway - a crudely carved image of a crucifix sits above the words,
Voice-over, "…the immaculate who conceived without sin...1830" (voice-over continuity is lost).

The women of the village are preparing for an annual celebration on one of the sidestreets, wearing their finery - an elderly woman stands on the right of the frame, her head covered with some old cloth and she puts the final knot in the tightly scraped-back hair of the woman who sits in front of her - a third woman appears to be sewing in the background of the image and a young girl lies asleep against her lap. Groups which are composed predominantly of men stand in the open cobbled square of the village - some onlookers watch over the scene from behind a wall. Six men sit on horses that have elaborate head-dresses on. Close-up of three of the horsemen - the newest newlyweds of the year - as they pass cigarettes between each other - they are all wearing white shirts and trouser, covered by dark shirt-sleeved tunics and headscarves, and are waiting to prove their prowess as local custom dictates. With crowds of villagers behind him, a man releases a dead cockerel, tied by its feet to a rope that stretches between the buildings on either side of the street. The cock flies suspended above the cobbled streets and the villagers gather on both sides of the narrow road. The bridegrooms ride proudly down the street, watched by smiling locals. The horsemen gallop by in single file. The lead horseman gallops towards the cock and motions to rip its head from its body. The ceremony is over and men congregate on the street in small groups. The bridegrooms, now dismounted, parade the dismembered heads to the men who sit and stand under balcony, and one of the horseman pours wine from what looks like a golden jug. Seven men stand, eat and drink in a group, and a young female adult stands behind them watching. Close-up of one of the bridegrooms pouring the wine into a cup - a cigarette hangs out of his mouth and the twin buttoned design of his vest tunic is clearly evident as women and children stand behind him. The men of the village, in a mixture of hats, including caps and berets, talk, eat and drink by the roadside - one drinks from a large jug. Close-up of a young dark-haired, Eurasian looking man who is eating a distributed wafer. A return to the male group shot above - the men drink and toast the health of the heroes of the day. Close-up of the wafer-eating man who is now drinking form a jug. Close-up of baby held in its mothers arms - it is wearing a lace trimmed white bonnet and dress - a curl of dark hair emerges from the bonnet and the child has several bulbous silver necklaces adorning it - the camera pans down the baby's body to show the trinkets literally falling form the baby and an adult's hand moves in to the image to display the charms which include a bell. A rooftop view of the congregated villagers in the square below - the rooftops seem to melt into one giant tiled mass.

A pan right to left across a range of mountains which stretch to the horizon - 52 villages and 8000 people are nestled amongst these mountains. The camera pans down a heavily tree-lined hillside - a three tiered church emerges amongst the trees on the flat ground. Close-up of the church - a solid, free-standing and isolated structure with a large arched opening at its base. The camera tilts upwards filming a young woman who is wearing a headscarf and standing next to the church - its once decorated wall stand crumbling and an opening in the wall houses a small statue. Close-up of the woman, looking nervous as she glances to the left of the camera's view. Close-up of the statue - a bearded man holds an outstretched infant across his arms, and an inscription is on the wall below, and the camera pans quickly down to a crumbling sign on the wall which is possibly bullet-ridden. The camera moves shakily in through the archway to open countryside beyond it - the wooden beams of the church are exposed above it. The camera is moved behind some trees - the ruins of the convent stand on the flat ground in front of it. Pan up the tall outer wall of the church. An intricate stone fountain spurts jets of water onto the ground below which was presumably once inhabited by a pond, and two toads leap amongst the vegetation. Close-up of a toad walking across the frame. A strong breeze makes the branches of the blossom trees wave furiously in the convent's open interior. A snake - adder(?) - winds its way along the rocky ground. The foliage of the trees move in the breeze. A fast-flowing river moves downstream amongst the vegetation. The trees' foliage reach over the white water of the river. The silhouette of a mountain is filmed behind the bare branches of a tree. A rocky barren landscape surround the back of the convent. The camera pans over the defiant ruins of the convent which once housed 18 chapels. Three tall poplar trees stand proudly in the centre of the image. The front wall of the convent is filmed from behind a tree on the hilltop and the bright sunlight highlights is white stone.

A more panoramic view of the landscape - the roofless buildings seem to sit organically amongst nature's creations. The undulating landscape forms the horizon, silhouetted against the bright sky. The rolling hills, populated with trees, look like sand-dunes stretching in all directions. A village creeps up the hill from the valley below - the roofs of many buildings are visible but an imposing white building dominates the view. Angular rocks of different shades fit together in a random puzzle, creating the walls of the buildings and a woman walks away from the camera, directing her daughter up the rocky pathway. A young boy follows a pig up the incline of a narrow pathway which is engulfed by buildings on either side. A man on an emaciated-looking donkey rides up a street with a tree branch over his shoulder, passing a groups of villagers sitting on the left of the image and a lone man sitting in the forefront, quietly smoking a cigarette, and as he passes, a woman appears from a doorway holding a small baby in her arms. Young female children congregate around a trickling stream as a woman crouches down besides it, washing some material in the water. A woman washes what appears to be cabbage leaves in the gentle stream which runs between the jutting rocks of the street surface. A pig noses at some discarded vegetables by the side of the stream. A young girl sits on the rocks with a small infant on her lap, an gently press a handful of water to its mouth, whilst holding what looks like a biscuit in her other hand - the children look healthy but are dressed quite shabbily. A boy, kneels down by the stream to take mouth full of water, wipes his mouth and gets up to leave. An aerial shot pans across the practically empty riverbed which runs down from the mountains into the village where one woman cleans her baby, whilst another washes a food bowl slightly downstream. Close-up of a middle-aged woman scrubbing away the food bowl. Close-up of the other woman, bending down and gently bathing her baby's head with water from the stream.

Three young girls sit on the rocky banks of the stream, dipping pieces of bread into the flowing water. Close-up of two of the girls sitting side-buy-side slowly nibbling at the bread. A young shaven-headed boy leans out of what is presumably the school building - a white solid building which has a white flag hanging by the window - and he rings a bell whilst looking out into the distance. The girls re fetched by a slightly older girl and are directed to school, still eating the chunks of bread. A suited man stands at the door inside the school as a steady stream of young children walk in towards their desks, whilst a calendar with man image of a kitten hangs on the wall. Young girls sheepishly walk in single file through the door- they are wearing shabby dresses and are barefooted. The primary school children move to sit at their desks as the sunlight pours in though the window. The room is becoming full as a few more children walk past their schoolmaster. Close-up of a young boy sitting at his desk -he has a shaven head and holds his hand against his forehead briefly as he stares down at his desk with a serious look, the total effect making him appear desolate and malnourished. Close-up of three small girls who are looking into the camera with suspicion on their faces and in their defensive cross-armed poses. The older children sit t the back of the classroom, sitting silently as the schoolmaster places open books in front of them on their desks. Close-up of the children's bare feet under their desks - the smaller ones swing their legs, whilst the larger ones rest their feet on a wooden beam on the base of the desk. Two young girls lean their heads against their crossed-arms, looking up towards the front f the room. Whilst the other children around her look down at their books, a dark haired girl, bathed in sunlight, stares with some confusion and questioning towards the front of the classroom, stands up and walk forward. The schoolmaster sits at the front of the classroom besides a square wall-mounted blackboard, with his back to his students, and the young girl approaches with her book. Close-up of the young, malnourished boy as he also gets up from his desk with his book, as he leaves one of his male classmates is visible smiling in the background. The boy joins the girl and the schoolmaster in font of the blackboard. Close-up of a male student looking attentively at the blackboard - the camera pans up the wall besides him onto a painted, frameless picture of a European woman in ac. 1880s hooped, evening dress, standing in what is possibly the rolling hills of the English countryside. Four children now stand at the blackboard, and look into their books as the first boy reads a passage, watched carefully by his teacher. The camera pans across the faces of the seated students - only their heads and shoulders are visible above their desks. A boy starts to write in chalk on the blackboard, reaching to write near the top of the board. Two young boys occasionally look up form their desks, copying the words from the blackboard. Close-up o the boy writing on the board in Italic, joined-up, neat handwriting - a hand-written phrase is superimposed onto the image,
"Respect other people's property."
The two boys continue to copy the words of this instruction.

The camera pans across the valley as the voice-over informs us that its relative prosperity comes from the walnut, cherry and olive trees. The overlapping roofs of a small village nestle on the hillside. A woman stands with a baby in her arms, looking over the ascending rooftops which look like giant stepping stones in front of her. A female slowly walks with two young girls through a narrow street lined with stone houses. Close-up of a young girl who is clutching a doll and walking besides a female- they are both dressed in old, dirty dresses, have barefeet and look generally unkempt. A pig in a confined area. A man who looks world-weary looks into the camera as he sits with a small boy on his lap, both are dressed shabbily. A parade of three children and one female adult are lined against a stone wall as the camera pans across these desolate, poor villagers. A small girl is slowly lead past the camera by a male adult. A woman sits by the wall with a baby tossing and turning in her arms - the voice-over informs us that she is 32, but her aged faces denies this and she appears to have a large growth protruding from the front of her neck. Small girl lies on a deserted street under the hillside. Close-up of the young girl accompanies by commentary,
"…our guide tells us that she has been lying there for the past three days but no-one seems to know what her ailment is…"
and she stare blankly at the camera as she silently lies at the roadside - one of the film crew in a clean white shirt, approaches and sits next to her, and as he does so, she raises her arm to cover her eyes from the sunlight so that she can look at him. Close-up of the girl's face - she is pretty, wears a headscarf and earring, and closes her eyes as she opens her mouth. Close-up of the open mouth - a man's fingers gently hold her by the chin and softly lift her top lip and the voice-over states,
"The child's throat and tonsils are terribly inflame, but unfortunately we can do nothing about it. Two days later they told us that the child had died."

A woman sits in a doorway playfully wrestling with the family's prized pig, lets it go and continues to peel a potato - a man enters the house with a v-shape hoe over his shoulder, but they do not acknowledge each other. Outside, a woman teaches a girl to peel potatoes. The potato peel is dropped into a shallow bowl which is sitting between the females' bare feet.

A mass of olive trees sway gently in the breeze. Close-up of the branches of the olive trees. Two mountain goats, with thick coats and long horns, stand on the top of a steep rocky hillside. Close-up of the goats as they leap from one rock to another. The goats wander along the hilltop. The silhouetted goats walk along the hill crag, searching for food. Close-up of one of the goats as it carefully works its way down the steep incline. Shot of some flowering vegetation. Small turret shaped beehives stand on the ground. The bees swarm around the beehives. Close-up of flying bees. The bees gather on the verticals of the hives. Close-up of hundreds of swarming bees. The beehives stand on the valley floor. Bees swarming. The hives stand, devoid of the bees. Two male villagers carefully lead a donkey which has some hives attached to its back, down the rocky hillside. The travellers walk across the hilltop.

A girl and boy sit in front of an open fireplace, picking at unripe cherries, spitting out the pips to the floor. Close-up of the pale cherries as their hands select the fruit to eat. The healthy men of the village leave their homes and form a small line, walking down the street. A man exits his home, wearing what looks like several layers of clothes, a hat and a blanket thrown over his shoulder. A line of c.ten men walk along the meandering street on their way to find work outside the village. A random group of men walk with disappointment on their lowered faces as they return to the village. Close up of some of the men a they pass the camera, the voice-over states that they do so with,
"…empty hands and empty stomachs…" (voice-over)
The men, some carrying bundles on their backs, but most with only blankets, walk away from the camera through open fields which are covered with long grass.

Shot of a plot of vegetated land near a river. Two men clear the vegetation which consists mainly of thick bushes. Close-up of the men on the incline - one removes the felled branches whilst the other continues to hack away at the remaining foliage with a primitive, hand-held instrument. The camera pans down from the now cleared slope to the gently flowing river below. The two men build a stone barricade made of flat, angular rocks, around the land in order to prevent it from winter flooding. A man stands with an open sack as his colleague fills it with spadefull of dark, rich fertile soil from the hills above. The men carry the soil-laden sacks over their shoulders as they descend the hill. One of the men releases the sack's contents onto the ground beside the stone wall. Close-up of rippling water from which the camera pans up to film a man's feet walking backwards in the soil, digging a path with a hoe as he goes. Aerial shot of the narrow strip of cultivated land which is protected on either side by stone walls as it lines the river's edge - vegetation appears to be growing in the ploughed soil. A highly meandering river snakes though the land which houses strips of cultivated soil in amongst the natural vegetation.

The camera is moved at speed past a family who are making their way up a pathway which climbs the hill. The two adult males and two adult females pass by the still camera on their way. The adults fight off the overhanging bushes as they climb a steeper incline. Close-up of the their feet as they move down a rocky pathway - a male wears disintegrating sandals, whilst the following female walks with barefooted. With an impressive mountainous landscape in the background, the four adults stop amongst some dense vegetation and place their blankets down. The elderly woman bends down and collects leaves from the ground, using her hands as shovels. A male stands as the younger female, using her cupped hands, puts leaves into an open sack. The younger male stands with his right arm heavily bandaged as the result of an adder bite. Close-up of his hand which is swollen from the infection. Close-up of the man's bewildered face. The man displays his arm to the camera and occasionally glances in its direction. The elderly female walks away from the camera, carrying a laden sack over her shoulder. A male walks up the street in the village with a full sack on his back and enters the through the doorway of a house. The roughly-made wooden door is pushed open and the male, wearing ripped clothes, comes into the house, placing the sack on the floor by the door and emptying the dried leaves onto the ground.


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