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Spanish auteur Carlos Saura, known for a lifetime of movies made in the shadow of his country’s civil war under the Franco dictatorship and its aftermath, has died. He was 91.
The Spanish Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences said Saura died at home “surrounded by his loved ones.”
Fernando Mendez-Leite, president of the Spanish Academy, paid tribute to Saura, saying the filmmaker’s “highly personal, varied work and creative has left an indelible mark on the history of our cinema and Spanish culture. Personally I’m very sad, because I had the pleasure of knowing and dealing with Carlos for many years, whom I considered an a teacher and a friend.”
Saura had been due to receive the Academy’s Honorary Goya Award at a ceremony Saturday but instead received the statuette at home this week. The Spanish Academy added the 37th edition of the Goya Awards will pay tribute to “an unrepeatable creator.”
Born in Huesca on Jan. 4, 1932, Saura established his creative roots in the shadow of the Spanish civil war and its aftermath. He studied in Madrid at the Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencias Cinematográficas. In 1958, he released his first documentary, Cuenca, which he wrote and directed.
In 1960, he co-wrote and directed Los golfos (The Urchins), a film about Spanish youth turning to crime for survival on the fringes of Madrid. That was followed by Saura and frequent writing companion Mario Camus collaborating on Llanto Por un Bandido (Lament for a Bandit), a historical western that starred Fancisco Rabal and Lea Massari.
In 1966, Saura’s first film with producer Elias Querejeta, La Caza (The Hunt), marked the first one from Spain to be programmed into the New York Film Festival. The 1970s brought Saura as a director success with titles like Peppermint Frappe, which starred Geraldine Chaplin, La Prima Angélica and Cría Cuervos, a drama about an 8-year-old orphan and her two sisters living in the shadow of Franco’s dictatorship.
The 1977 film Cousin Angelica, about a middle-aged man recalling his childhood and the present amid the Spanish civil war, won a Jury Prize at Cannes and secured a U.S. release. He also earned a Golden Bear in Berlin for 1981’s Deprisa, Deprisa.
Having to endlessly make films amid the threat of Spanish censors, Saura used various art forms and symbolism as he worked with screenwriter-actor Antonio Gades during the 1980s on the “Flamenco Trilogy.” That included a ballet adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, Carmen, a film about flamenco dancers rehearsing a Spanish version of Bizet’s opera Carmen and El Amor Brujo.
In more recent decades, Saura returned to the documentary format with such films as Flamenco, Flamenco, which chronicled that dance and music tradition as a sequel to his 1995 Flamenco, and Fados, a film about Portugal’s Fado music culture.
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