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Cría cuervos

Spanish dvd cover
Directed by Carlos Saura
Produced by Elías Querejeta
Carlos Saura
Written by Carlos Saura
Starring Ana Torrent,
Geraldine Chaplin,
Héctor Alterio
Cinematography Teo Escamilla
Editing by Pablo Gonzalez del Amo
Release date(s) Spain 26 January 1976
France 3 June 1976
United States 18 May 1977
Running time 107
Country Spain
Language Spanish

Cría cuervos (English: Raise Ravens) is a 1976 Spanish film directed by Carlos Saura. The film is an allegoric 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]



Eight-year-old Ana, stoic and mute approaches her father’s bedroom where she has heard a gasping sound and a woman’s plaintive sobs. Descending the stairs, she spies an attractive middle-aged woman, hastily dressing and rushing from the bedroom to the front door of the darkened house. The woman and Ana exchange glances but do not speak. Once the woman has left, Ana enters her father’s bedroom and finds the man dead, apparently from a heart attack. As if not really understanding the gravity of the situation, Ana unflappably takes away a half-full glass of milk, which she carries to the kitchen and cleans. In the kitchen, she sees her mother, who chides her for being up so late and sends her off to bed.

Reality and fantasy swap places. The bizarre death of Ana's father, who will prove to be a Fascist military man, is real. The apparently banal appearance of the mother at the fridge, on the other hand, is in fact fantasized by the grieving child. Ana’s mother is already dead; her image is only a fanciful illusion of the little girl’s mind. Blaming her mother’s illness and death on her father, Ana has dissolved a mysterious powder she believes to be a potent poison in his milk glass as a willful act of murder. Her belief in the power of the poison is thus confirmed when her father dies.

At the wake of Ana’s father, she sees again the mysterious woman she had previously seen fleeing her father’s bedroom on the night of his death. The woman, Amelia, is the wife of her father’s close friend and fellow military officer. Ana’s satisfaction of having rid herself of her father’s presence is short lived, for her mother’s sister, her Aunt Paulina, soon arrives to set the house in order, turning out to be every bit the cold authoritarian Ana’s father had been. The all-female household is completed by the children’s grandmother, mute and immobile in a wheelchair, and the feisty, fleshy housekeeper, Rosa.

Ana takes refuge in the basement, where she keeps her 'lethal' powder, and where she is watched by an apparition of herself from twenty years in the future. The adult Ana, looking exactly as her mother, recounts her infancy:' I don't believe in childhood paradise, or in innocence, or the natural goodness of children. I remember my childhood as a long period of time, interminable, sad, full of fear, fear of the unknown'.

The little rituals of everyday life fill Ana’s days during her summer school vacation. Tortured by the memories of her mother’s illness, Ana rebels against her aunt's authoritarian style, and in bouts of loneliness she variously imagines her mother’s continued presence, or even her own suicide. Though diverted by the presence of her two sisters, Ana’s only truly close companions are the family maid, Rosa, and her pet guinea pig, Roni, whom she discovers dead in his cage one morning.

Ana’s mother's painful death from cancer; her father’s presumed murder, her guinea pig's death and her own imagined suicide weigh on the girl's mind. Ana even offers her grandmother, ill and using a wheelchair, the opportunity of dying and ridding herself from loneliness by providing her a spoonful of her poison. The old woman turns down Ana's offer.

The adult Ana explains the notion of the mysterious powder that the child Ana had so dearly coveted : it was nothing more than bicarbonate of soda that her mother once told her was a powerful poison. She further explains her motivation in wanting to kill her father ; " The only thing I remembered perfectly is that then my father seemed responsible for the sadness that weighted on my mother in the last years of her life. I was convinced that he, and he alone, had provoked her illness."

Ana, still believing that she has murdered her father, attempts to poison her aunt with the same powder. She repeats the preparation of milk with the mysterious substance, but the next morning awakens for the first day of school to find that Paulina is still alive. Ana and her two sisters leave the lugubrious family compound and march into the vibrant and noisy city that has all but been shut out from their world up to this point.


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 by 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 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]

  • Ana Torrent - Ana, 8 years old
  • Conchi Pérez - Irene, 11 years old
  • Maite Sánchez - Mayte, 5 years old
  • Josefina Díaz - Ana's grandmother
  • Germán Cobos - Nicholas, Amelia's husband
  • Héctor Alterio - Anselmo, Ana's father
  • Mirta Miller - Amelia, Anselmo's mistress


Cria Cuervos was made in the last months of the Franco government, but was released in January 1976.[3] Its title, comes from the Spanish proverb, "Cría cuervos y te arrancarán los ojos."[3] This translates as, "Raise ravens, and they'll pluck out your eyes" and is generally used for someone who has bad luck in raising children, or raised them badly. It may also imply rebellious behavior or that every bad act will return to haunt you.[3]

The phrase "Cría cuervos y te arrancarán 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.[4]

Cría Cuervos was released as Cría! in the United States and as Raise Ravens in the UK.


This film was made during a period where Carlos Saura was considered one of the great opponents, along with other directors, of the Franco regime, with characters and themes in the film alluding to Saura's interpretations and criticisms of Franco-inspired truths.[5]

The film stresses the disparity between Ana's inner world of private traumas and the outer world of political realities and fascism. Ana will cope with her guilt in both arenas.[3]

When asked to elucidate on the nature of Ana's suffering, the director, Carlos Saura replied :" Cria 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."[6]


Cria Cuervos was shot in the summer of 1975, as Spanish dictator Francisco Franco lay dying, and premiered in Madrid's Conde Duque Theatre, on January 26, 1976.[7] 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 become the sixth largest grossing Spanish film of 1976.[8] The picture made a similar strong showing in foreign markets, including the U.S where it solidified Saura's reputation as Spain's best international known director of the 1970s.[8] Today the film is considered a political and psychological masterpiece and a classic of Spanish Cinema.[7]


The film prominently features the pop song "Porque te vas" by Jeanette, an American 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

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


  • D'Lugo, Marvin, The Films of Carlos Saura, Princeton University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-691-031428
  • 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 0-582-437156
  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Cría cuervos". Retrieved 2009-05-06.  
  2. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema, p. 108
  3. ^ a b c d Schwartz, The Great Spanish Films, p. 102
  4. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema, p. 109
  5. ^ Pavlovic, 100 Years of Spanish Cinema, p. 111
  6. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema", p. 102
  7. ^ a b Criterion Collection essay by Paul Julian Smith
  8. ^ a b D'Lugo, The Films of Carlos Saura, p. 138
  9. ^ Stone, Spanish Cinema, p. 101

External links

Preceded by
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, Cannes
tied with La Marquise d'O...
Succeeded by
The Shout tied with
Bye Bye Monkey


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