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Multilingual Iberia in twenty-first century cinema: Iberian polyglot films and multilingual imagination

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The increasing multilingualism in films produced on the Iberian Peninsula simultaneously stems from and promotes one of the most salient traits of the Iberian geocultural space: its linguistic diversity. Paradoxically, however, film distributors tend to de-emphasize this diversity – or even render it invisible – in DVD and VOD-platform releases. Framed within the field of Iberian Studies, this article analyses from a polycentric perspective several multilingual films produced in twenty-first century Iberia. I argue that polyglot films screened in their multilingual original versions (MOV) have the potential to create a ‘multilingual imagination’ (Kramsch) in Iberian audiences. Through the analysis of examples such as the Portuguese film Lisboetas (Tréfaut, 2004) and the Galician Os fenómenos (Zarauza, 2014), I propose that the sensory experiences created by films’ multilingual ‘spoken landscapes’ (Balázs) can serve as triggers for new viewing habits, making audiences more receptive to the Peninsula’s diverse autochthonous and immigrant languages. However, as other examples illustrate, the interaction of multiple languages on-screen is not, by itself, enough to foster multilingual imaginations.
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Keywords: Iberian Peninsula; Iberian cinemas; audience habits; contemporary cinema; linguistic diversity; multilingual imagination; multilingual original version; polyglot cinema

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Vienna

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • The International Journal of Iberian Studies (IJIS) is the academic journal for scholars from around the world whose research focuses on contemporary Spain and Portugal from a range of disciplinary perspectives. IJIS is interested in history (20th century onwards), government and politics; foreign policy and international relations.
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