In Spain, we laugh at the unerring talent of our movie industry to ruin perfectly good movie titles when translating them into Spanish. Some particularly memorable examples are: Un canguro superduro (The Pacifier), Soñando, soñando… triunfé patinando (Ice Princess), Dos colgaos muy fumaos (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle), Este muerto está muy vivo (Weekend at Bernie’s). Well, we’re not worse than others. Now that Spanish movies are successfully making forays into overseas markets, we can also see how our movies fall victim to hilarious translations.The screening of Spanish movies in movie theaters outside Spain has increased 51.7% over the past decade, a 2015 report by FAPAE, the Federation of Spanish Audiovisual Producer Associations, reveals.
“The appetite for Spanish movies is greater than ever, although not necessarily in theaters,” Simón de Santiago, producer at Mod Producciones (Ágora, Caníbal, Primos), explains to Verne. He’s referring to the fact that there is an ever-growing number of media which make them available, such as pay TV or online video services.
The idea for the latest box-office hit in Spanish theaters, Cuerpo de élite, was born at the headquarters of Mod Producciones. This comedy already has an international title in English for the foreign market: Heroes Wanted. “It’s merely a suggestion; there’s no reason why the other distributors should keep it,” De Santiago remarks.
“The international title is often decided between the producer and the sales agent. It’s a fairly complex process that leads to some rather awful ideas at times,” the producer admits. Characters that are so typically Spanish such as a civil guard, a legionnaire, a Mosso d’Esquadra (Catalan policeman) and an ertzaina (Basque policeman) star in this film. The title has to be adapted to other cultures. Every country has its own business needs, but Simon de Santiago often wonders how certain translations in Asian countries come about. He finds no common ground between their ways to capture an audience’s attention and those commonly used in the West.
The first movie directed by actor Raúl Arévalo, Una tarde para la ira, received critical acclaim, including from international critics (Variety, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter). This Spanish production’s English title for its screening at international film festivals in Venice, Toronto and London was The Fury of a Patient Man.Telecinco Cinema produces and sells Paco León’s movies abroad. In most of the markets, Carmina y revienta shed its local references—which are closely linked with the film on El Lute in the 1980s—, coming to be called simply Carmina. In Greece, in contrast, the title Skase kai perpata (English: Walk and Be Quiet) was chosen.
“As a producer, I prefer to let other markets have the last say. I understand the reasons why they don’t keep the titles as they are because the same thing often happens to me with foreign films. We practically never demand final approval of the alternative titles for each country,” Álvaro Agustín, the Managing Director of this production company, shares with Verne.
Another of the greatest challenges that Telecinco Cinema faced was translating Ocho apellidos vascos. How can you explain in only a few words the social connotations of this comedy to an audience that is unfamiliar with Spanish current affairs? The international title proposed was Spanish Affair, but in Greece and Portugal, they decided to give it the title Namoro à Espanhola (English: Spanish-style Love) and the German title was 8 Namen für die Liebe (English: Eight Names for Love). In Serbia, they went all out and it became Zbog tebe promeniću prezime (English: I’ll Change My Name for You).