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On the occasion of the Department of Film’s 14th annual Film Benefit, honoring Penélope Cruz, we present five films from her vast and varied career. Since her first on-screen performance at age 16, in Jamón Jamón, Cruz has showcased the depth of her talent in over 65 films. Over that span she has worked with renowned directors like Olivier Assayas and Asghar Farhadi, but no collaboration has proved as potent and mutually inspiring as her work with director Pedro Almodóvar, who Cruz says instigated her desire to act after she saw Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! as a young teen. One of contemporary cinema’s great partnerships, the pair recently completed their seventh film together with Parallel Mothers. Reflecting on their nearly 25-year creative relationship, Almodóvar describes Cruz’s performances as “a very sincere kind of emotionalism that connects her with her gut. She’s a warrior, a survivor, someone who can overcome—that’s a quality that’s very strong in her. And then, at the same time, she has this almost childlike vulnerability.”
In a career in which she has portrayed factory workers, nuns, and sex workers, Cruz has embodied womanhood in all its forms and archetypes, delivering nuanced portrayals that can turn from heart-wrenching melodrama to comedy and back again. With a Hollywood career that continues to soar (she is the first, and only, Spanish woman to win an Academy Award) and her status as bona fide Spanish film royalty, Cruz’s very modern career is unmatched in its breadth.
Organized by Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.