Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays

Issue 12 – 2023 (2)

Special Issue “Urban Spaces and Cinema. Ibero-American Cities in the Audiovisual Field”

Coordinators: Luis Deltell Escolar y Nadia McGowan

The exponential development of urban life compared to the rural was parallel to the evolution of the cinema spectacle. Cinematic art emerged as urban entertainment. Thus, by the end of the 19th century, when the companies of Thomas Alva Edison and the Lumière brothers began popularizing moving images, European and North American cities experienced their fastest growth in history. For decades, cinema was a significant event in the realm of modernity. Over the years, certain cinematic styles unmistakably became urban: American film noir, Hollywood sophisticated comedy, Italian neorealism…

With a delay compared to the European and American context, in the Ibero-American sphere, including Portugal and Spain (according to the RAE), cinema also developed along with cities, but in a manner different from the Anglo-Saxon and French approaches. On one hand, the realities of the various countries were completely different. On the other, the exponential growth of major cities such as São Paulo, Mexico City, Madrid, or Buenos Aires allowed for the emergence of a rapid economy that fostered the cinema of those countries. Brazilian, Mexican, Spanish, and Argentine cinema undoubtedly benefited from the growth of their large cities.

Some fiction filmmakers have succeeded in solidifying their own image of the city. This is the case with Pedro Almodóvar’s Madrid, Luis Buñuel’s American period in Mexico City, Juan José Campanella’s Buenos Aires, the suburbs and the periphery in Lucrecia Martel’s cinema… Sometimes, a single film can shape the imagery of an entire city for decades, as happened with São Paulo, Sociedade Anônima (Luís Sérgio Person, 1965) or Cidade de Deus (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002).

However, not only fiction feature films have presented creative representations of these communities’ cities. In non-fiction, the theme of the Ibero-American city has often been central, such as in Metal y melancolía (Heddy Honigmann, 1993) about Lima, Suite Habana (Fernando Pérez, 2003) depicting Havana, Mourir à Madrid (Frédéric Rossif, 1963) about Madrid, or La batalla de Chile, la lucha de un pueblo sin armas (Patricio Guzmán, 1975) portraying Santiago.

In the dossier “Urban Spaces and Cinema. Ibero-American Cities in the Audiovisual Field,” we present various works focusing on some of these issues: the city of Madrid and women, the development of existentialist cinema in São Paulo, the relationship of the recently deceased Carlos Saura with Murcia, the complex relationships of realism(s) portraying Madrid during the dictatorship, the study of social problems surrounding the mortgage crisis and its portrayal in Spanish media, and the representation of the Latin American cities  using artificial intelligence tools.


Four individuals in São Paulo

Luis Deltell Escolar (Universidad Complutense de Madrid & ESCINE, Grupo Complutense de estudios cinematográficos) – 28:30

Historically, Brazilian cinema has rarely portrayed São Paulo, preferring instead Río de Janeiro, the northeast, or other geographic regions of the country. However, between the mid-1950s and the end of the 1970s three highly influential films were set in this Brazilian city: O grande momento (“The grand moment”, Roberto Santos, 1958), Noite vazia (“Men and Women”, Walter Hugo Khouri, 1964) and São Paulo, Sociedade Anônima (“São Paulo, Incorporated”, Luiz Sérgio Person, 1965). These films share one fundamental characteristic: their central protagonists are all real people, complete with all their individual vices and virtues. In contrast to cinema set in other locations, these film representations of São Paulo are embodied by individuals from Brazil’s middle or upper-middle classes. O grande momento is the story of an ordinary working man while Noite vazia and São Paulo, Sociedade Anônima deal with the problems of life in this new Latin-American mega-city.  

Palabras clave: Brazil, Brazilian cinema, Cinema Novo, city, São Paulo

A-Ten-Thousand-Legs Madrid

Asier Gil Vázquez (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) –11:12

During the second half of the Franco regime (1957-1973), a wide array of films used the city of Madrid as an ideal set to stage the struggles between tradition and modernity derived from the economic development and the subsequent social and cultural changes. The growing presence of women in public spaces became a common element of these films. This video essay collects scenes of women walking through the city in fiction films produced from 1957 to 1972. These representations embody interwoven discourses around fashion and male surveillance. The legs, which became increasingly more visible as skirts became shorter, became a fetish for the male gaze, but also the engine that allowed them to keep moving forward. 

Palabras clave: Desarrollismo, Madrid, Skirts, Walk, Women

Dispossesssion Through Mortgage Debt in Three Acts

Laura Caballero Rabanal (University of Massachusetts Amherst) –  07:27

Through the dialogue between two recent films about evictions (Cerca de tu casa, 2016, and En los márgenes, 2022), and the feminist reading of debt developed by Verónica Gago and Luci Cavallero, this video-essay explores affective reactions and community support networks related to these processes of extractive violence.

Palabras clave: evictions, dispossession, debt, social movements, subalternity


Sylvia González Rodríguez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) – 11:38

This audiovisual essay revisits the Spanish realist cinema of the 1950s. The research of authors who previously wrote about this topic is used to showcase and delve into the development of this movement: its main authors, the most representative films, the most notable characteristics, or the influence that could have existed from Italian neorealism. A walk is taken through filming locations of these films, mainly in the city of Madrid.

Palabras clave: cinema, filming locations, neorealism, Spanish realism

The Mistery of Creating: Murcia under Carlos Saura’s gaze

Daniel Toledo Saura (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) –  11:25

This audiovisual essay establishes a parallelism between the mystery of the processes that the artist goes through and the cinema of Carlos Saura, using as a reference point Stefan Zweig’s The Mystery of Artistic Creation and the film Pajarico (Carlos Saura, 1997).

Palabras clave:  Cinema, City, Murcia, Mystery, Saura

Cities of Ibero-America as seen by Artificial Intelligence

Nadia McGowan (Universidad Internacional de La Rioja) – 12:15

This study explores how Generative Artificial Intelligence envisions Ibero-American cities through the creation of synthetic content using the Midjourney AI tool.

Palabras clave: AI-generated images, cultural perception, digital urban aesthetics, urban representation



The audiovisual essays accepted through the open call offer a variety of aesthetic and thematic registers as diverse as they are fascinating. Firstly, “Women on the Verge of a Financial Crisis” by Tomer Nechushtan establishes a series of parallels among four very distinct films: Gold Diggers of 1933 (LeRoy, 1933), Bande de Filles (Sciamma, 2014), Hustlers (Scafaria, 2019) and Birds of Prey (Yan, 2020). These works are connected by the way they portray sisterhood through criminal action in a context of socio-economic oppression. Secondly, Joseph M. Johnson explores in “Rapuncelia” how Pilar Palomero reconstructs the iconic tale in her film Las niñas (2020), offering a transgressive vision. The analysis delves into the symbolic and narrative layers the director employs to reinterpret this classic. Thirdly, “Power and Gardens” by Nico Carpentier is a four-part audiovisual essay investigating the intricate relationships between human beings and nature in the gardens of European cities such as Paris, Lyon, and Prague. This work delves into how gardens symbolize the anthropocentric domestication of nature, while simultaneously highlighting the inherent resistance of the natural world to any form of regimentation. Finally, in ” “Do you really want to have children? Off-screen Motherhood in Spanish Dramedies”, Lorenzo Torres, Mariona Visa, and Mª Isabel Menéndez explore the representation of motherhood in six contemporary Spanish dramedies produced or co-produced by streaming platforms. Among others, they analyze Vida perfecta, Cardo, and Valeria. This analysis provides a detailed look at how these productions address and challenge conventions related to motherhood.

In the section ‘From the Archive,’ Vicente Rodríguez Ortega weaves a history of film exhibition in Madrid by exploring the spaces where cinemagoing used to take place, spaces that have regrettably faded away. On one hand, it delves into the details of the buildings and locations where movie theaters once existed; on the other hand, it utilizes sound excerpts from a variety of films that may have been projected in these venues.

This issue features five new videos from the Screen Stars Dictionary. On one hand, four works that have already been added to the showcase on Vimeo are highlighted. Specifically, we present videos on Robert de Niro (by Daniel O’Brien), Shah Rukh Khan (by Ritika Kaushik), Tony Leung (by Jialu Zhu), and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (by Sureshkumar P. Sekar). In addition, Evelyn Kreutzer contributes to the dictionary with a previously unpublished piece on Leonard Bernstein. With these new five videos and others that have been available on Vimeo for some time, our project becomes decidedly transnational and expands the boundaries of the “sayable” regarding audiovisual stardom.

Finally, in the “Student Showcase”, two projects by students from Universidad Complutense are presented. They explore, in very different ways, the urban space of Madrid through the films Los tramposos (Pedro Lazaga, 1959) and La virgen de agosto (Jonás Trueba, 2019).


Women on the Verge of Financial Crisis

Tomer Nechushtan (Tel Aviv University) –  04:58

This video brings together four different films, all concerned with the dynamics of crime and friendship that are tied to gender and socio-economic oppression. In opposition to the conventions of group-crime films, the films in this video elevate the bonds between the young women and present them as the ultimate (though unspoken) value of their criminal operations. This video explores the ways in which these films’ common theme was being emphasized, particularly by the excessive, extra-narrative moments of singing, dancing, sleeping, and enjoyment of clothing and other material goods. Emphasizing their affinities and focusing on their shared moments of struggle and pleasure, the video frames these films within a sub-genre of their own. 

Palabras clave: Dancing, Entertainment, Singing, Sisterhood, Poverty



Joseph M. Johnson (University of Massachusetts-Amherst)  – 04:30

Hetero-patriarchal norms are maintained by force, imposed in lullabies and fairy tales, in which virginal women, mute and inviolate, cloister themselves and each other in towers of self-denial. Should they escape, they become the new jealous witches, continuing the cycle of imprisonment and shame. Schoolgirls (Pilar Palomero, 2020) subverts ancient warnings against moral transgressions with new temptations, different from the forbidden love that seduced previous mothers.  

Palabras clave: Fairy tales, Feminism, Pilar Palomero, Rapunzel, Schoolgirls

Power and Gardens

Nico Carpentier (Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism, Charles University, República Checa) – 29:47

Power and Gardens is a four-part video audiovisual essay that investigates how human-nature relationships are condensed in the gardens of the European cities of Paris, Lyon, and Prague, and how they symbolize the anthropocentric taming of nature, together with nature’s capacity to resist.

Palabras clave: Discursive-material analysis; discursive-material construction of garden; human-nature relationships; power dynamics.


“Do you really want to have children?”. Off-screen Motherhood in Spanish Dramedies

Lorenzo Torres (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), Mariona Visa (Universitat de Lleida) y Mª Isabel Menéndez (Universidad de Burgos) – 10:24

In this video essay, we explore the portrayal of motherhood in six contemporary Spanish dramedies available on video-on-demand platforms. Our analysis employs both quantitative and qualitative content analysis, along with a textual analysis focusing on the first and last appearances of the protagonists.

Palabras clave: audiovisual representation, birth rate, dramedy, motherhood, reproduction

From the Archive

Madrid: City of Lost Cinemas

The audiovisual essay starts with a historical account of the early days of movie theaters in Madrid and then moves on to trace a brief history of film exhibition in the Spanish capital to ultimately showcase a series of movie theaters that used to populate its cityscape.

Section curated by Vicente Rodríguez Ortega (UC3M)

Screen Stars Dictionary

In this edition of Screen Stars Dictionary:

  • Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, by Sureshkumar P. Sekar (Royal College of Music)
  • Leonard Bernstein, by Evelyn Kreutzer
  • Robert De Niro, by Daniel O’Brien (University of Essex)
  • Shah Rukh Khan, by Ritika Kaushik (Goethe University, Frankfurt)
  • Tony Leung, by Jialu Zhu (Universität Zürich)

Student Showcase

Los tramposos

Pablo Manzano Ben

(Universidad Complutense de Madrid)



La virgen de diciembre

Gabriela Verdú Bisbal, Anabel Cobo Vázquez y Irene Igeño García

(Universidad Complutense de Madrid)


Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
ISSN: 2659-4269
© Grupo de Investigación Tecmerin
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid