Popular representations of history in film and television are usually viewed, in academic circles, as fanciful cultural products that either distort historical accuracy for commercial purposes or that perpetuate preconceived national narratives. Yet they can reflect and shape political debates in a more immediate way than academic history.
In recent decades, Iberian history has often been represented in film and television, not only in Spain and Portugal but also in North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and other geographic contexts. This trend speaks to the cultural diversity of Iberian history, which contains elements and episodes that appeal to diverse audiences and constituencies: the idealization or demonization of a mythical al-Andalus that serves as a stage for the coexistence between Jews, Muslims, and Christians; the rise and decline of the Spanish and Portuguese empires; the colonization of the Americas; and the Spanish Civil War as a prelude for World War II and the fight for democracy, to name only a few salient examples. Between nostalgic idealization and demonization, the way we imagine the Iberian past reveals our own ideological coordinates and our efforts to reproduce and also to reinvent questions of religious and cultural hegemony as well as racial and national identity.
This conference explores how contemporary audiovisual representations of Iberian history have been produced and consumed in the Iberian Peninsula and beyond. Reel history either reflects nostalgia for a past of grandeur or rejects it as a burdensome legacy that is perceived as incompatible with modernity. But historical representations are primarily interventions on contemporary debates, such as immigration, sexual and civil rights, or cultural identity. Stories about the past tell us a lot about the present.