Photographer Captures Ghostly 'Hollywood Of Europe' On Film | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Filed Under:

Photographer Captures Ghostly 'Hollywood Of Europe' On Film

Play associated audio
D.C.-based photographer Mark Parascandola creates images that explore Almeria's haunting identity.
Mark Parascandola
D.C.-based photographer Mark Parascandola creates images that explore Almeria's haunting identity.

During the 1960s and '70s, Almeria, a province on the southern coast of Spain, hosted dozens of filmmakers and movie stars. Even if it doesn't sound familiar, chances are, you've probably seen it.

Whether a director wanted rolling dunes, desert mountains, or a rocky coastline, Almeria could fit the bill. Now, 50 years after the filmmaking boom, D.C.-based photographer Mark Parascandola introduces us to Almeria. Parascandola, a full-time epidemiologist at National Cancer Institutes, visits family in Almeria every year, and has captured the old sets and barren landscapes that give Almeria its haunting identity.

The prints are gigantic, some as long as 7 feet, and make viewers feel like they've stumbled into a screening room where 12 old movies are playing at once. The desert sun shines a technicolor glow onto the crumbling historic buildings and painted shacks.

For most of the 20th century, Parascandola says Almeria was one of the poorest regions in Spain. Hollywood crews started showing up in the '60s and '70s, and many locals thought it could be a game-changer. One of the first productions to film in Almeria was Lawrence of Arabia, winner of the Oscar for Best Picture in 1962.

Director David Lean began shooting in Jordan, but that soon became too expensive. Spain was cheaper, and the port of Almeria looked a lot like the port of Akaba. Lean filmed more than half of his movie there, and other directors soon followed. Patton, Cleopatra, all of Sergio Leone's early spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood, and later, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade filmed there.

"Everyone thought that they were going to be the Hollywood of Europe," Parascandola explains. "Some people even called it that at the time. Big named actors passed through there — Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor — many of them multiple times, making different films. "You had 360 days of sunshine a year, and these incredible landscapes, which look like Southern California or Nevada."

The province's boom years were short-lived. By the early 1980s, westerns weren't as popular as they used to be, and there was less demand for Almeria's rocky desert landscapes. Today, apart from the occasional music video or car commercial, Almeria is pretty much a ghost town. Parascandola's photography series documents this little known chapter in film history. "I think it's interesting for people to see how those locations look now. Many people got involved in working on the films. Some of the people who remember that time are now gone, and it's in danger of being lost."


[Music: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" by Ennio Morricone from Film Music by Ennio Morricone]

Photos: Almeria

NPR

How One Poet's 'Genius Grant' Became A Gift To Future Generations

Amy Clampitt was named a MacArthur genius in 1992. Today, the home she bought with her award money is used to house rising poets in tuition-free residencies.
NPR

Edible Packaging? Retailers Not Quite Ready To Ditch The Wrapper

To reduce waste, some enterprising companies are trying to roll out products that make the package part of the snack — edible packaging. But selling it to the retail market is trickier than it seems.
WAMU 88.5

Majority Of Virginians Support Medicaid Expansion, According To Poll

Nearly two-thirds of Virginians support expanding Medicaid in Virginia, according to a new poll released this morning, but they are also skeptical whether the federal government can pay its share.
NPR

When The Power's Out, Solar Panels May Not Keep The Lights On

With the price of solar panels falling, more municipalities and homeowners are installing them. But having solar panels doesn't mean you won't lose power in a blackout — at least not yet.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.