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Cría Cuervos
Cria Cuervos, poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byCarlos Saura
Written byCarlos Saura
Produced byElías Querejeta
Carlos Saura
StarringAna Torrent
Geraldine Chaplin
Héctor Alterio
Florinda Chico
CinematographyTeo Escamilla
Edited byPablo Gonzalez del Amo
Release date
  • 26 January 1976 (1976-01-26)
Running time
107 minutes

Cría Cuervos (Raise ravens) is a 1976 Spanish drama film directed by Carlos Saura. The film is an allegorical drama about an eight-year-old girl dealing with loss. Highly acclaimed, it received the Special Jury Prize Award at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


The events of the film are set mainly in 1975, but interweave the past, present and future.

Eight-year-old Ana overhears her father, Anselmo, in bed with a woman, followed by choking sounds. The woman rushes out alone and leaves. Ana finds her father dead in bed, apparently from a heart attack. Calmly, Ana removes a half-full glass of milk from the dresser, carries it to the kitchen, and washes it. Ana's mother, Maria, enters the kitchen and chides her for being up so late. It is revealed shortly that Ana is imagining her mother, who previously died of cancer.

At Anselmo's wake, Ana again sees the woman who fled the bedroom - Amelia, who is married to Nicolas, a longtime Army compatriot of Anselmo's. (It is mentioned later that the two men had served in División Azul, volunteering to fight alongside the Nazis in World War II.) Although Ana views her father's body, she refuses to kiss his forehead when prompted by the adults.

Upon returning home from the wake, Ana goes into the basement and retrieves a tin containing a white powder. The camera pans to an adult Ana, who looks exactly like Maria and begins to address the camera. She explains that her mother had once told her the powder was a potent poison, and that after her mother's death, she came to the conclusion that her father's cruelty had caused the cancer, so she used the powder to kill her father.

Ana, who is on summer vacation from school, lives in a large, quiet house with her young sisters, Irene and Maite; her grandmother, who is mute and wheelchair-bound; Roni, a pet guinea pig; and Rosa, the vivacious family maid and Ana's closest companion. Following the funeral, Maria's sister Paulina becomes the orphaned children's' guardian and moves in. Flashbacks reveal that Maria was a warm and imaginative mother; in contrast, Paulina is stern and patronizing.

Ana rebels against her aunt's authoritarianism while routinely reliving memories of life with her mother and imagining her presence. Many of the memories are distressing, including witnessing Maria writhing in pain in her final days. In another, Ana watches her parents argue late at night. Maria begs Anselmo to be more present in his family's life, saying that she is sick and wants to die; Anselmo dismisses her coldly, countering that she is trying to manipulate him into ending his infidelities by feigning illness.

Growing increasingly despondent, present-day Ana offers to help her grandmother die by administering the same poison powder she used to kill her father, which her grandmother accepts, but then declines once Ana tells her that the "poison" is called baking soda. Later, Ana discovers Roni dying and strokes him until he goes still. Nicolas comes to the house to visit Paulina, who is revealed to be his mistress. Ana, holding a pistol she found in her father's study, walks in on an intimate moment between the two adults. Nicolas eventually persuades her to hand him the gun, and discovers that it was loaded.

That night Ana attempts to kill Paulina by dissolving the "poison" in a glass of milk, which she later retrieves and washes as she did her father's glass. Ana then enters Paulina's bedroom and strokes her hair as she lies asleep in bed. Ana is briefly shocked that Paulina is alive the next morning. At breakfast, Irene recounts a dream from the night before: two men kidnapped her and couldn't reach Maria and Anselmo for ransom, but when they were about to kill her, she woke up. The sisters leave for school, emerging from their cloistered lives into the vibrant, noisy city, captured in a long tracking shot that contrasts with the tighter framing of the preceding scenes.


Ana Torrent plays the lead character, Ana. She was already well known thanks to her starring role in the film El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive) (1973) by Víctor Erice, made when she was seven years old. She followed Cría Cuervos with yet another memorable role in The Nest (1980) in which she played a thirteen-year-old in a relationship with an aging widower played by Héctor Alterio who here has the role of Anselmo, Ana's father.

Geraldine Chaplin plays dual roles: Ana's mother, Maria, in which she speaks Spanish with an English accent and Ana as a young woman in which she is dubbed by actress Julieta Serrano. Chaplin was director Saura's common-law wife and muse at that time. She appeared in ten of his films.[2]


The title Cría Cuervos comes from the Spanish proverb, "Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos". This translates as, "Raise ravens, and they'll gouge your eyes out" and is generally used for someone who has bad luck in raising children, or raising them badly. It may also imply rebellious behavior of youth or that every good act will return to haunt you.

The phrase "Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos" is said to originate with Don Álvaro de Luna of Castile during a hunting expedition. In the course of the hunt his party came across a beggar with terrible scarring in the place of eyes. The beggar explained that he had raised a raven for three years with affection and great care, but it attacked him one day, leaving him blind. The bon mot was Don Álvaro's reply.[3]

Cría Cuervos was originally released as Cría! in the United States and as Raise Ravens in the UK, but the original title Cría Cuervos is now used in both countries.


This film was made during a period where Carlos Saura was considered one of the great opponents, along with other directors, of the Francoist Spain, with characters and themes in the film alluding to Saura's interpretations and criticisms of Franco-inspired truths.

The film stresses the disparity between Ana's inner world of private traumas and the outer world of political realities and the Francoist State. Ana will cope with her guilt in both arenas.

When asked to elucidate the nature of Ana's suffering, the director replied: "Cría Cuervos is a sad film, yes. But that's part of my belief that childhood is one of the most terrible parts in the life of a human being. What I'm trying to say is that at that age you've no idea where it is you are going, only that people are taking you somewhere, leading you, pulling you and you are frightened. You don't know where you're going or who you are or what you are going to do. It's a time of terrible indecision."[4]


Cría Cuervos was shot in the summer of 1975, as Spanish leader Francisco Franco lay dying, and premiered in Madrid's Conde Duque Theatre, on January 26, 1976.[5] Highly acclaimed, it received the Cannes film festival Special Jury Prize Award. The film became director Carlos Saura and producer Elías Querejeta's most commercially successful film up to that point, going on to become the sixth largest grossing Spanish film of 1976.[6] The picture made a similar strong showing in foreign markets, including the United States where it solidified Saura's reputation as Spain's best internationally-known director of the 1970s.[6] Today the film is considered a political and psychological masterpiece and a classic of Spanish Cinema.[5] The film was selected as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 49th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[7] It was, however, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film by the U.S. National Board of Review.[8]


The film prominently features the pop song "Porque te vas" by Jeanette, an English-born singer, singing in Spanish, whose accented voice reminds Ana of her mother, as played by Geraldine Chaplin, who speaks Spanish with her English-accented voice. Despite an infectious rhythm the song has sad and poignant lyrics. The song expresses the fact that Ana has no understanding of death, only of absence.[9]

DVD release

Cría Cuervos was released on DVD on August 14, 2007 in a two-disc special edition as part of the Criterion Collection.

The film was released on Blu-ray in a Dual Format Edition on May 27, 2013 by the BFI.

See also


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Cría cuervos". Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  2. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema, p. 108
  3. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema, p. 109
  4. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema", p. 102
  5. ^ a b Criterion Collection essay by Paul Julian Smith
  6. ^ a b D'Lugo, The Films of Carlos Saura, p. 138
  7. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  8. ^ "1977 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  9. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema, p. 101


  • D'Lugo, Marvin, The Films of Carlos Saura, Princeton University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-691-03142-8
  • Schwartz, Ronald, The Great Spanish Films: 1950 - 1990, Scarecrow Press, London, 1991, ISBN 0-8108-2488-4
  • Stone, Rob, Spanish Cinema, Pearson Education, 2002, ISBN 0-582-43715-6

External links

This page was last edited on 18 August 2021, at 21:28
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