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2 February 2022 - 2 February 2022

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Scholars have identified Esencia de verbena, a short film depicting Madrid’s summer fairs (verbenas) by Ernesto Giménez Caballero, as a Surrealist-inflected film. The film’s fast-paced cuts, inventive perspectives, and innovative montages demonstrate the director’s engagement with the international avant-garde, and more specifically, Surrealism.

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Zurbaran Centre for Spanish & Latin American Art

This paper presents how Esencia de verbena also used aesthetic choices to convey an ambiguous political message that become clear when considering how the short was exhibited upon a national and international stage. References to contemporary aesthetics befit the film’s intended audience composed of the attendees of the 1930 avant-garde International Film Congress celebrated in Brussels. Esencia de verbena elevates the fairs, characterized by their combination of religious devotion with sensuous appetites, to signifiers of Spain as a Surrealist nation. Giménez Caballero reassigns meanings to historical monuments and anachronistic traditions and aligns them to the subversion and eroticism appreciated by Surrealists. Thus, the film’s aesthetics imbued Spanish difference with avant-garde relevance.

Dr. Maite Barragán is Assistant Professor, Albright College, USA