The first Spanish film was made in late 19th century. For all practical purposes, the first fiction film in Spain was Café Brawl, in the year 1897. It was produced, directed and written by Fructuoso Gelabert, the pioneer of Spanish films. From then on, till about 1915, Barcelona was the capital of Spanish film-making. Later on, Madrid stole the show with some of the big names in Spanish cinema opening their studios in Madrid.
The early Spanish films made in the 1920s and 1930s focused on depicting the Spanish culture. They were mostly documentaries on the local culture; later they turned to Spanish literature for scripts. However, a breakthrough in Spanish cinema came in the year 1928, with the screening of Luis Bunuel’s ‘The Andalusian Dog’ in Paris. The movie launched Bunuel as the numero uno of Spanish cinema for all times to come. But the local Spanish film industry was not technically sound to take on the competition from the West. Hence, all the talented movie-makers of Spain migrated to Hollywood.
The first phase of Spanish cinema came to an end after the mid-thirties due to the Civil War and the subsequent victory of the country’s dictator, General Franco in the year 1947. From 1940 to 1970 due to Franco’s rule came censorship and state ownership of film production. Hence the period between 1940 up to 1975 saw the film industry in Spain become a quasi-official studio under Franco's government, with film after film reflecting the regime's themes and tastes.
After 1975, With the death of General Franco in the year 1975, came the much needed liberalization to Spanish films. Bigas Luna, Pedro Almodovar and Trueba were among the Spanish actors who made it big; followed by new age Spanish stars Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura. But the liberalization had an adverse effect on the quality of Spanish cinema. For every good movie there were 20 others which were bad enough to qualify as sleazy which continued until the 21st century.
New age Spanish films including works of noted film makers such as Alejandro Amenabar, Pedro Almodovar, Santiago Segura and Fernando Colomo are helping bring Spanish cinema to the fore. The Goya Awards for Spanish cinema was introduced by the Spanish film academy in the year 1987. This annual award ceremony was created to honor and recognize excellence in the Spanish film industry. This came as a shot in the arm to the ailing Spanish cinema fraternity and has helped encourage fresh talent into the industry and elevate Spanish films to international standards.