Guest Post: Diana Norton on LO IMPOSIBLE

By Diana Norton:

The Impossible (Lo imposible) is slick and well-made film telling the story of a family on Holiday in Thailand, whose fun-filled vacation at a luxury beach resort is rocked by the 2004 tsunami.

However, its slow plot and narrow focus have brought criticism surrounding its portrayal the effects of the tsunami on the locals, whose appearances in the film mask the devastation of their towns and populaces. But I wish to raise another aspect of the film that saddens me as a scholar of Spanish culture. Though primarily filmed in Spain, co-produced by Spanish film studios (Apaches Entertainment and Telecinco Cinema) and completely funded by Spanish money, the only parts of the film that really appear Spanish are the names of the crew listed in the credits.

In the pursuit of making a box-office hit, the creators sacrificed the appearance of anything Spanish within it, including the language and the physical make-up of its actors. It’s entirely possible that not having any clearly visible markers of Spanish cinema is a good thing; that the idea of a national cinema is passé. Co-productions in European and Latin American cinema have existed for well over 50 years and have only become more ubiquitous.

I can even understand the desire to create this film in English in order to maximize worldwide distribution and recoup production costs. But I wonder, if the Spanish family whose story forms the heart of this film is suddenly morphed into a blond, British family, what exactly remains that visibly identifies Lo imposible as a Spanish production to the audiences that it will reach?

María Álvarez Belón, the woman on whose life this film was based, states that making the film in English permitted them to erase the question of nationality within the film. After all, the tsunami did not discriminate in its victims. Yet, in electing a blond, English-speaking family to serve as its center, the film actually does favor a certain nationality—a whiter, blonder, British nationality. In anglicizing the language, the film’s creators have also erased the most visible and defining characteristic of it as a Spanish movie and have succumbed to the Hollywood-ization of cinema for the sake of ticket sales.

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