Carlos SauraSpain90 minutes2016ColourSpanish
The new film from legendary Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura (Carmen, Tango) captures the vivacity and charisma of the jota, a waltz-like castanet dance with its origins in Saura's home province of Aragon.
With a career spanning nearly 50 years and over 40 films, Carlos Saura is one of Spain's most prolific filmmakers. He has long been using cinema to depict the social fabric of Spanish society and its many cultural iterations, and his recent filmography has been specifically concerned with dance and music. Saura's productions highlighting flamenco, tango, and fado have enthralled audiences with their beauty and simplicity. Now his feature J: Beyond Flamenco captures the vivacity and charisma of the jota, a waltz-like castanet dance with its origins in Saura's home province of Aragon.
J: Beyond Flamenco begins with a dance class showing young performers, from diverse walks of contemporary Spanish life, kicking and jumping with highly coordinated agility. Saura then guides us through the many variations of the jota, placing dancers, musicians, and singers amid simply constructed sets and screens. Highlights include an elderly couple who move with energy and grace, introductions to modern versions of the jota, and a town fair. The fair is an annual tradition in every Spanish village; here, young and old gather to dance, and we are witness to the jota as a living and breathing tradition.
One of the things that's so wonderful about Spain's culture is its concerted ongoing effort to preserve dances such as the jota — an effort that Saura's project is very much a part of. J: Beyond Flamenco is an exhilarating tour of an art form, conducted by a master, that allows us to be both witness and party to the safeguarding of a tradition.