Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (1932), (English language: Land Without Bread or Unpromised Land) is a 28-minute-long documentary film directed by Luis Buñuel and co-produced by Bunuel and Ramon Acin. The narration was written by Bunuel, Rafael Sanchez Ventura, and Pierre Unik, with cinematography by Eli Lotar.
Although it is often described as a documentary, Land Without Bread is actually an early (some might say prescient) parody -- some would say a Surrealist parody -- of the barely invented genre of documentary filmmaking. The film focuses on the Las Hurdes region of Spain, the mountainous area around the town La Alberca, and the intense poverty of its occupants. Buñuel, who made the film after reading an 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 a disinterested narrator provides unverifiable, gratuitous, and wildly exaggerated descriptions of the human misery of Las Hurdes.
Anti-clericalism of the director is obvious in certain sequences. The film shows the extreme contrast between the residents of the villages and the much more affluent appearance of the church located in one cited as "one of the poorest". It also shows a Carmelite convent occupied by one White Friar, adding in the narrative "The sole companions of the friar are toads, adders, and lizards". The film was banned in Spain from 1933 to 1936.
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's Symphony No. 4 for the music.
Luis Buñuel was not above slaughtering several animals to deliver his message; he ordered the ailing donkey to be spread with honey so he could film it being stung to death by bees. Nor was the mountain goat falling off the mountain an accident, shot by Buñuel's crew for the desired sequence.