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Cult Films & Sounds, Spain & South America

Archaeology Corner: Lorca, Killer Wail

Anyone with more than a passing interest in Spanish culture knows that Federico Garcia Lorca was “Spain’s greatest 20th century poet” (copyright, every single guidebook ever written about Spain) and that he was murdered by the Fascists at the start of the Spanish Civil War, either for being a Leftie (which he wasn’t) or a homosexual (which he was) or both. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Lorca, Killer Wail”

Archaeology Corner: Northern Soul on Film

First of all, a big shout to my colleague Laurence Elliott, who, while being in no way related to Joe Elliott, the lead singer of Def Leppard, IS a bit of a fellow Germanophile and, more importantly, recently lent me his prized copy of the much-trumpeted film Northern Soul (much trumpeted on its own website anyway – join  the club, I say) which he got for Christmas from his nan. Or it might have been his sister. This small act of kindness has prompted me to offer up a modest overview of Northern Soul on film, both fictional and documentary. As if there were a difference in these post-truth times! Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Northern Soul on Film”

Archaeology Corner: Apocalypto

Hooray! At last, we have some REAL archaeology to get our teeth into. We’re talking Mayan pyramids, and Mayan language, and Mel Gibson. But as ever with archaeology on film, we’re gonna get mired in controversy over how accurate things really are. The first time I saw Apocalypto, I thought “Cool!”  Sure, there’s a bit too much joking around at the start with tapir testicles, and Jaguar Paw’s young, pregnant wife and son at the bottom of the well is a touch too Hollywood, but the decision to use an indigenous language (Yucatec) is a stroke of genius, and the pursuit of Jaguar Paw by the Bad Mayans is super exciting and combines elements of Deliverance with Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey to great effect.
Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Apocalypto”

Archaeology Corner: Deliverance

Deliverance is the ultimate “dam” movie. Okay, so there aren’t really that many films about dams, but they do include a couple of corkers, namely Larissa Shepitko’s difficult-to-find Farewell (completed by her husband Elem Klimov after Shepitko died in a car crash, so very much a farewell to his wife as well as a farewell to the Siberian village threatened by a hydro-electric scheme) and the Argentinian/Welsh co-production Patagonia, neither of which we’re concerned with here, as I’m saving Argentinian/Welsh co-productions for another, necessarily short post at some point in the future. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Deliverance”

In Extremadura: Jarramplas

I’m a bit late with this one – it was supposed to go out on January 19th but I was distracted by my Deliverance and Apocalypto posts. There’s a connection of sorts, though, in that the peculiar tradition of the Jarramplas, which takes place in Piornal, Northern Extremadura, is in its way as sacrificial as what the Maya get up to in Apocalypto, while the people of Piornal are every bit as fond of their squealing pigs and attendant embutidos as the mountain men of Deliverance. They are, quite literally, the mountain men of Extremadura, Piornal being the highest village round those parts, and this is what they get up to, every January, on Saint Sebastian’s Day. Continue reading “In Extremadura: Jarramplas”

Archaeology Corner: Prisoners of Bunuel

Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread) is a documentary made by Luis Bunuel in Extremadura in 1932, during Spain’s Second Republic. This was, I need hardly tell you, a time of huge social progress and equally violent unrest. King Alfonso XIII had abdicated and a progressive coalition of Republicans and Socialists had come to power. The government was attempting, amongst other things, to introduce an eight-hour working day and solve the “land problem” by giving proper tenure to agricultural workers. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Prisoners of Bunuel”

Archaeology Corner: El Derecho de Vivir en Paz

All translations by Google*

El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to Live in Peace) is a song by Victor Jara from the 1971 album of the same name, which also features the songs El Alma Llena de Banderas (Alma’s Up To Here With Antonio Banderas*) and Ya Parte El Galgo Terrible (I Went to a Terrible Party in Wales*). It was Jara’s expression of solidarity with the people of Vietnam, who in their desire to “live in peace” had comprehensively defeated the French in battle and were, when he wrote the song, giving the Americans a good hiding as well. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: El Derecho de Vivir en Paz”

In The Hands of the Living God by Lillian Bouzane

Book review, first published in THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE

It’s the last decade of the fifteenth century. Venice is top dog of Europe. For two hundred years her nobles have controlled the trade routes to the East, their galleys bringing riches up the Grand Canal and shipping them to the rest of Europe. But times are changing, and in an age of rapid progress the finest explorers of the day – Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Giovanni and Sebastian Caboto –  are engaged in a race to discover a passage through to the Eastern Spice Islands, a discovery that will mean the downfall of Venice. Continue reading “In The Hands of the Living God by Lillian Bouzane”

In Extremadura, coming in 2017

Coming out in 2017, my second book is a radical deconstruction of the Brit Abroad genre (see, for example, A Year In Provence, or Driving Over Lemons) . Yes, it’s “about” me (again) my family and our idyllic life in Spain (zzzz) but it’s also about the under-explored and relatively unknown province of Caceres, which lies in Extremadura, in south-west Spain. Its people, its history, its culture, traditions and peculiarities. Above all, its peculiarities.   Continue reading “In Extremadura, coming in 2017”

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