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Carlos Saura, one of the most towering figures in the world of Spanish cinema, has died at the age of 91. The news was first announced by the Film Academy of Spain.
Born in Huesca, Aragón, Spain in 1932, Saura’s childhood in the shadows of the Spanish Civil War played a key role in shaping his creative worldview. When he began making films in the late 1950s, he rose to prominence for his willingness to criticize Francisco Franco for the effects his regime had on Spanish life.
His important early works included the 1966 drama “The Hunt,” which won Saura the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his portrait of Spanish Civil War veterans dealing with life after the conflict. He won another Silver bear in 1968 for “Peppermint Frappé,” a movie that was immortalized in film history when Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut interrupted its Cannes screening out of solidarity with protesting students and workers. His films “La Prima Angélica” and “Cría Cuervos” later won special jury prizes at Cannes in the 1970s.
When Franco died in 1975, and Spain began to restore democracy, Saura stopped making political films and began a second act that focused on dance films. In the 1980s, he directed a trilogy of films about Flamenco dancing that consisted of “Blood Wedding,” “Carmen,” and “Love the Magician.” Flamenco was a theme that he would return to throughout his career.
In a 1999 interview with IndieWire, Saura was asked about the differences between his dance films and his more traditional narratives. The director explained that he didn’t like to divide his work into binary categories, and saw all of his films as memories of various chapters of his life.
“It’s hard to say. I don’t have a preference as such. I remember all my films with a certain sentiment, because I like all of my films very much,” Saura said. “But not necessarily for the films themselves — it’s because I have a memory [of the filmmaking], or I met somebody there, or one of my wives worked with me. It’s hard to say. For me, cinema is part of my life, and there it is. And then you forget about it.”
Saura remained an active filmmaker until his death. His final project, the documentary “Las Paredes Hablan,” premiered in 2022 when the director was 90 years old.