••• The International Writers Magazine: Set-Jetting in Spain
Cinema Tourism Comes to Cuenca and Guadalajara
Cinema Tourism (Set-Jetting) is a reality, and you only have to do the Math to realise that. Following the release of Out of Africa, the number of visitors to Kenya increased by 500%, while visitors to the Wallace Monument rose by 300% following the release of Braveheart.
The Crown Hotel, Amersham, had to put up the ‘No Vacancies’ sign for three years following the hot, steamy scenes between Hugh Grant and Andy McDowell filmed there during Four Weddings and a Funeral. And the list goes on.
Spain has been slow to follow the trend, which is surprising considering that it is the non-English speaking country with most English language films ever shot; over 700 and still counting.
Bob Yareham, an English and history teacher who has lived in Valencia for 35 years, decided to do something about that. His book ‘Movies Made in Spain’ identifies the locations of 720 films and mini-series filmed partly or wholly in Spain and shot in English. There isn’t a country in the world (and one or two planets) that haven’t been represented by Spanish scenery.
Unfortunately, local authorities haven’t always cooperated. At Trebujena, in the province of Cádiz for example, they tore down the Japanese POW camp built there by Steven Spielberg for Empire of the Sun, and with a few glorious exceptions, the making of all these films is not being harnessed by tourism entities in order to attract new visitors.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Mr Yareham, and a colleague, Jaume Palau, a Catalan expert in tourism, who is the author of books about the locations of James Bond films (many of them in Spain) and Game of Thrones (ditto), are organising an event in Cuenca in an attempt to encourage the setting up of cinema tours, (set-jetting), visiting the main locations in that province, which has witnessed filming by Richard Lester, Sergio Leone, Stanley Kramer, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Pierce Brosnan, Charlton Heston, Benicio del Toro, Tim Robbins, Robert de Niro, Oliver Reed, Michael York and Geraldine Chaplin, to name but a few.
Cuenca is an enchanting province, but not one that is saturated by tourists, and apart from the spectacular old town, perched on a hill, it has three major international filming locations; the castle of Belmonte, the monastery of Uclés and the bizarre, geological rock formations of La Ciudad Encantada and Los Callejones de Las Majadas.
Local politicians, tourist organisations, film producers, tour operators, hotel and restaurant owners and other potential merchandising manufacturers have started signing up for the event, to be held on February 4th 2017 at the Parador Nacional de Cuenca (where Pierce Brosnan stayed while filming The World is not Enough).
It will be a round table meeting, with presentations from experts in cinema history, tourism, local monuments and products, from which it is planned to go beyond talking and produce a pilot tour to tap into the unexploited market for cinema tourism. In fact, one local tour operator will be presenting a completed project at the event.
The resulting tours, unique experiences combining films, locations, local gastronomy, wine tasting and varied forms of entertainment, will take place in Spanish or in English, and will kick off in spring 2017.
British residents along the Costa Blanca have already signed up for the tour, and with Cuenca only an hour away from Valencia or Madrid by high speed train, it is hoped that this new kind of tourism will take hold.
Marlon Brando, Katherine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Stanley Kubrick, Vanessa Redgrave, Hugh Grant, Ridley Scott, Orson Welles…. it sounds like the cast of an exclusive Hollywood party from the days when Hollywood knew how to party; but in fact it’s a list of some of the stars who have made films in the province of Guadalajara in Castilla La Mancha.
Following the enthusiasm for the Cuenca event, which has been highlighted extensively in the local media and in some foreign websites, the creators of the project have adopted the same model to the province of Guadalajara, also in Castilla La Mancha.
Orson Welles made a few films in Spain, and chose the tiny town of Brihuega to shoot some scenes from his movie The Immortal Story, converting the town into the 19th century Chinese port of Macao.
Kirk Douglas finished off Spartacus, in more senses than one, near Madrid, where the final battle scene was filmed using readily available Spanish soldiers at the Dehesa de Navalvillar near Colmena Viejo, with a brief scene of ‘before and after’ crucified slaves in the main square of Iriépal.
In the 70s, Katherine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave spent a whole summer filming The Trojan Women at the medieval village of Atienza, whose looming castle portrayed the conquered walls of Troy. Today villagers still refer to it as “the film.”
In one of his earliest films, Hugh Grant played Lord Byron, and first met Liz Hurley in a Spanish film made in English. Apart from the windswept beaches of Asturias, among the locations of Rowing in the Wind was the Monastery of Lupiana, which was also a location for another Spanish film shot in English, the El Escorial Conspiracy.
Both Ridley Scott and John Glen chose the Parador of Sigüenza for their government subsidized homages to Columbus on the 500th anniversary of his getting lost somewhere near India, in 1492 and The Discovery respectively.
Not a bad record for a province that most people pass through, if at all, on their way elsewhere.
||Like Scott and Glen, Bob Yareham has also chosen the Parador at Sigüenza for a second set-jetting, cinema tourism event on March 11th 2017. Mr Yareham has presented his book in several Paradors famous for filming, such as Oropesa, Toledo, where Frank Sinatra encouraged some Spaniards watching a bullfight to rebel against Napoleon’s men in The Pride and the Passion, or Cardona, Barcelona, where Orson Welles depicted the court of King Henry IV in Chimes at Midnight.
Like Scott and Glen, the project aims to launch a discovery in Spain; that cinema tourism is a golden, new territory that is worth exploring, and that Spain’s silver screen heritage cannot help but encourage new film making in the country that gave us classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, or more recently Brad Pitt’s Allied and The Promise starring Christian Bale, who returned to Spain where he made Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun as a child actor.
Films Shot in Spain
© Robert Yareham December 2016
The Camera Never Lies by Bob Yareham