Fear and Orphanages in Spanish Film: A Gendered Memory of the Franco Regime

Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:40 PM
Conference Room I (Sheraton New York)
Jessica Davidson, James Madison University
Several Twenty-First Century Spanish films have centered on the story of young boys in orphanages including Mala Educacion (Bad Education, 2004), El Orfanato (The Orphanage, 2007) and El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone, 2001).  The last two films fit the horror genre and focus on children in Spanish orphanages.  My study engages El Espinazo del Diablo as a means of understanding the recent Spanish cultural interest in the orphanage as a site for the discussion of the Franco regime.  This paper also sheds light on the significance of masculinity and assesses the significance of male sexuality.  It also considers the disempowerment of women and children both in the film and as a reflection of the larger right-wing military Franco dictatorship (1939-1975).  How did the strict gender roles of the Franco Regime bleed into the portrayal of men and women in Spanish film?  What is the symbolism of children in the narrative of fear and dictatorship?  I will address these questions in my analysis of the horror film El Espinazo del Diablo (2001). 

Orphanages proliferated during the Franco regime, particularly after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), taking in refugee and orphaned children often of Republican families.  Many of these schools were run by the Catholic Church, or were influenced by its hegemony during the regime.  What is the significance of this recent Spanish screen emphasis on young boys’ traumatic experiences in orphanages?  This paper unpacks the films’ choice of orphanages and their focus on boys as tools for the memory of the dictatorship.

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