The University of Wisconsin Press

Film / Biography / European Studies

Luis Buñuel
The Red Years, 1929–1939
Román Gubern and Paul Hammond

Wisconsin Film Studies
Patrick McGillian, Series Editor

“An indispensable book for the Buñuel scholar and
important to those interested in the history of Spanish film, the in-workings of the Surrealist movement, and the European left-wing political scene from the late twenties through the Spanish Civil War.”

—Julie Jones, University of New Orleans

The turbulent years of the 1930s were of profound importance in the life of Spanish film director Luis Buñuel (1900–1983). He joined the Surrealist movement in 1929 but by 1932 had renounced it and embraced Communism. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), he played an integral role in disseminating film propaganda in Paris for the Spanish Republican cause.

Luis Buñuel: The Red Years, 1929–1939 investigates Buñuel’s commitment to making the politicized documentary Land without Bread (1933) and his key role as an executive producer at Filmófono in Madrid, where he was responsible in 1935–36 for making four commercial features that prefigure his work in Mexico after 1946. As for the republics of France and Spain between which Buñuel shuttled during the 1930s, these became equally embattled as left and right totalitarianisms fought to wrest political power away from a debilitated capitalism.

Where it exists, the literature on this crucial decade of the film director’s life is scant and relies on Buñuel’s own self-interested accounts of that complex period. Román Gubern and Paul Hammond have undertaken extensive archival research in Europe and the United States and evaluated Buñuel’s accounts and those of historians and film writers to achieve a portrait of Buñuel’s “Red Years” that abounds in new information.

Román Gubern is professor at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona and has been a guest researcher at MIT. He is author of numerous screenplays for film and television and of more than forty books on cinema, popular culture, and semiotics, including 1936–1939: La Guerra de España en la pantalla.

Paul Hammond is author and editor of several books, including The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema. Among his many translations is A Panorama of American Film Noir by Borde and Chaumeton. Both authors live in Barcelona.


“Gubern and Hammond’s book is of course about Buñuel . . . but it is also about other aspects of those years: social fears and social change, the Surrealist movement, the paradigm shift that the advent of ‘talkies’ would bring to cinema, Republican propaganda during the Spanish Civil War, the diverging paths that Spain’s early film production companies (Filmófono and Cifesa) would take, and, ultimately, about the choices that artists like Buñuel faced in the 1930s.”
Journal of Modern History

“The period in Luis Buñuel’s career between 1930 (L’Âge d’or) and 1938, when he left Europe and went into exile, is the one we know the least about. From Gubern (an expert in Spanish cinema) and Hammond (an expert on Surrealism), we learn a great deal we didn’t know about his filmmaking, and about how it was intertwined with his politics.”
—Bill Krohn, author of Luis Buñuel: Chimera

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January 2012
LC: 2011011630 PN
472 pp.   6 x 9   43 b/w illus.

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Paper $34.95 a
ISBN 978-0-299-28474-9
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2009 Spanish edition, Los años rojos de Luis Buñuel, published by Catedra.

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