Land Without Bread  

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The Hurdanos were unknown, even in Spain, until a road was built for the first time in 1922. Nowhere does man need to wage a more desperate fight against the hostile forces of nature.” --opening title card to Land Without Bread (1933)

"In 1927 Maurice Legendre published an ethnographic study about Las Hurdes. This study was read by Luis Buñuel, who continued the gloomy legend that cast a pall over the area by means of the modern media. In a short 1933 film about the hurdanos, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan, that Buñuel shot around the town of La Alberca, Las Hurdes was portrayed as an isolated spot full of darkness. Buñuel exaggerated some scenes of the film by staging them beforehand in order to create strong impressions in the public. Screening of Buñuel's movie was banned by the authorities at that time, the Government of the Second Spanish Republic, for allegedly exploiting the misery in which the local people lived." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (English: Land Without Bread or Unpromised Land) is a 1933 documentary film (ethnofiction) directed by Luis Buñuel and co-produced by Buñuel and Ramón Acin. The narration was written by Buñuel, Rafael Sanchez Ventura, and Pierre Unik, with cinematography by Eli Lotar.





The film focuses on the Las Hurdes region of Spain, the mountainous area around the town of La Alberca, and the intense poverty of its occupants, who were so backwards and isolated that bread was unknown. A main source of income for them was taking in orphan children, for whom they received a government subsidy. Buñuel, who made the film after reading the ethnographic study Las Jurdes: étude de géographie humaine (1927) by Maurice Legendre, took a Surrealist approach to the notion of the anthropological expedition. The result was a travelogue in which the narrator’s extreme (indeed, exaggerated) descriptions of human misery of Las Hurdes contrasts with his flat and uninterested manner.

Buñuel claimed: "I was able to film Las Hurdes thanks to Ramon Acin, an anarchist from Huesca,...who one day at a cafe in Zaragoza told me, 'Luis, if I ever won the lottery, I would put up the money for you to make a film.' He won a hundred thousand pesetas...and gave me twenty thousand to make the film. With four thousand I bought a Fiat; Pierre Unik came, under contract from Vogue to write an article; and Eli Lotar arrived with a camera loaned by Marc Allégret."

The movie is a documentary, parodying the exaggerated documentaries of travelers across the Sahara being filmed at the same time. One of Buñuel's points is that there are plenty of terrible subjects for a documentary right in Spain.

The film was originally silent, though Buñuel himself narrated when it was first shown. A French narration by actor Abel Jacquin was added in Paris in 1935. Buñuel used extracts of Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4 for the music.

Buñuel slaughtered at least two animals to make Las Hurdes. One Hurdano claimed that he arranged for an ailing donkey to be covered with honey so he could film it being stung to death by bees. Similarly, his crew shot a mountain goat that subsequently fell from a cliff for another sequence.



Land Without Bread provoked such an uproar in Spain - Ruoff calls it a "revolutionary film" - that it was banned from 1933 to 1936.


Critical reception for Land Without Bread has been mostly positive. Ed Gonzalez from Slant Magazine awarded the film 4 out of 4 stars, writing, "Las Hurdes becomes a frightening call to arms, a fabulous open text that resists simple readings and questions humanity’s notion of progress."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Land Without Bread" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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