Joyce Sutherland (68) is a retired German and French language teacher. She enjoys travelling, gentle walks, doing quizzes & puzzles, gardening and learning Spanish. She thought it would be a good idea to start learning Spanish in order to keep her brain active and as a way of meeting new people. The advanced level she has achieved is such that it allows her to converse freely with the locals when she travels to Spain.
Joyce has taken part in the previous ESFF fundraiser. Here she gives her opinions on Spanish wine and films in a short interview.
In what ways do you find Spanish-speaking films different to English-speaking films?
J.—Spanish language cinema is enjoyable because it captures the atmosphere in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries: Spanish tastes in music, culture, history, beauty, television, food and even sport are totally different from other cultures, and I am so glad that Spanish films adhere to Spanish ideas and atmosphere.
What are your favourite films in Spanish?
J.—El amor en los tiempos del cólera and Volver
Do you think that films are a good reflection of the culture they belong to?
J.—Yes, I do think that films are a good reflection of the culture they belong to. However, sometimes English language films are too readily influenced (and sanitised) by US popular/ Hollywood culture – for example, ‘Braveheart’ is so Americanised in its distortion of Scottish history. That said, films about modern Scottish culture seem to have been more faithful in their portrayal. In ‘Trainspotting’, for example, they were brave enough to keep to the difficult Edinburgh dialect. Spanish films seem to have been able to remain defiantly Spanish!
As an experienced former language teacher, what is your attitude towards teaching a language or a culture through films?
J.—When I taught German in secondary schools I used films often as a medium for teaching language and culture. I applaud the fact that the Scottish Higher and Advanced Higher examinations allow pupils to speak and write about a film they have been studying, as well as a literature text. The same applies to the Spanish exams. Since films are too long for one showing in a school language period, my colleagues and I would divide the film into manageable chunks, show them in, say, 4 periods, then discuss the film by means of a booklet which we had devised. This booklet gave pupils some information about the director and locale of the film, helped pupils with vocabulary by means of gapped texts, helped them write and discuss a summary of the plot, asked them to describe a scene which they had enjoyed, asked them what they had particularly enjoyed about the film and why, and if they thought it was a good idea to watch a film rather than read a longer dense text.
Now, let’s talk about wine & wine-tasting. As you know, these fundraisers have been an initiative to promote both the film and the wine culture of Spain. What’s your opinion about Spanish wines and the way they are marketed abroad?
J.—I think that marketing for Spanish wines, including sherry, has improved markedly. When I was young, Spanish Rioja tended to be thought of as cheap and cheerful and not very good, but now its image has improved beyond all recognition. Supermarkets in Britain have also improved, marketing and labelling the wine into countries of origin, not just ‘red’ and ‘white’. Dedicated wine shops have also helped here and knowledgeable sellers behind the counter have helped to make the British palate more discerning.
Do you think that the wine-tasting sessions have helped improve your knowledge of this Spanish product?
J.—The wine-tasting has been incredible, as far as I am concerned! I had little or no idea about the plethora of sherry available over here. When I was growing up, a glass of sherry was confined to the ‘Harvey’s Bristol Cream’ sort – and only at Christmas and New Year, since my parents were almost teetotal and, besides, that was all they could afford. I learned so much from Paula at the last wine tasting. And, of course, the ibéricos helped very much with the appreciation of the sherry!
If you had to pick one, just one, which Spanish wine would you recommend?
J.—I would pick Manzanilla sherry for its simplicity and compatibility with many varieties of food – or on its own.