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BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Social Issues in Portuguese and Spanish Film

Unit code SPLA30641
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit introduces students to aspects of the cinematic representation of key social issues in the late 20th/early 21st century, in particular as they relate to contemporary Portuguese and Spanish cultures.  As well as for students of Spanish and/or Portuguese, this unit is also suitable for students of World Cinema.  All films are in Spanish or Portuguese, with English subtitles available.

Using a range of documentary, docufictional, and feature films, the unit will provide a critical awareness of the relationships between social issues, the impact of crisis on individuals and groups, and cinematic representation.



  • To consolidate the cross-cultural, interdisciplinary skills and knowledge of students in their final year of study.
  • To develop a nuanced understanding of the recent histories of Spain and Portugal.
  • To acquaint students with key cinematic works from contemporary Spain and Portugal, and develop the skills to analyse them formally and comparatively.

Learning outcomes

Students will be expected to:


Class topics are centred on eight specific films, as follows (listed chronologically by release date — the films will not necessarily be studied in this order):

Os Mutantes/The Mutants (Teresa Villaverde, 1998)

No Quarto da Vanda/In Vanda’s Room (Pedro Costa, 2000)

En construcción/In Construction (José Luis Guerín, 2000)

Los lunes al sol/Mondays in the Sun (Fernando León de Aranoa, 2002)

Te doy mis ojos/Take My Eyes (Iciar Bollaín, 2003)

Sangue do meu sangue/Blood of My Blood (João Canijo, 2011)

Tabu/Taboo (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

As Mil e Uma Noites I: O Inquieto/Arabian Nights 1: The Restless One (Miguel Gomes, 2015)

The films are contextualized with reference to social history and using examples of other, cognate media representations of the issues under analysis.

Teaching and learning methods

  • Lectures
  • Group work
  • Presentations given by individual students and pairs of students
  • Learning through informed viewing, reading, note-taking, interaction, self-monitoring, drafting and redrafting of response texts of various kinds

Knowledge and understanding

  • Draw on an appropriately wide knowledge of the social issues listed in the Course Unit Overview
  • Relate them cogently to their treatment in films of different genres

Intellectual skills

  • Develop informed analyses of film form in context
  • Develop an appreciation and critique of different forms of filmic representation
  • Form judgments and opinions based on detailed cross-cultural knowledge

Practical skills

Students will be expected to develop skills in:

  • Working towards conclusions from the basis of case studies
  • Conducting effective issue-based research

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students will be expected to develop skills relating to:

  • Transactional interaction with their peers
  • Clear communication of complex ideas
  • Empathy
  • Social responsibility

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods


oral feedback on presentations


written feedback on written assignments

Summative and Formative

oral and/or written feedback on exam answers

Summative (and Formative if scheduled in Semester 1)

additional one-to-one feedback (in office hours or by appointment)



Recommended reading

Jo Labanyi and Tatjana Pavlovi¿ (eds) A Companion to Spanish Cinema (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). 

Alberto Mira, Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2012)

Carolin Overhoff-Ferreira, Identity and Difference Postcoloniality and Transnationality in Lusophone Films (Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2013) 

Graeme Turner, Film as Social Practice. 4th edn (London: Routledge, 2007)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Bailey Unit coordinator
Christopher Perriam Unit coordinator

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