Swan Song: Ansotano

A lingering shame has gripped the mediaeval village of Ansó following the rise and fall of Franco’s nationalist regime. Speakers of the Ansotano tongue then fell silent or left their language behind as they built new lives in cities. But fragments of this endangered dialect and culture have been passed down through music and memory.

  • Alex Greenwood
  • Alex Greenwood
  • Georgina Quach
  • Alex Greenwood
  • Georgina Quach
  • Sam White
    Art Director
  • Livia Hartmann
  • Max Greenwood
    Theme Composer
  • Berta Aznar Perez
  • Elena Gusano
  • Richard Cash
  • Alice Corr
  • Steve Greenwood
    Special Thanks
  • Sam Wolfe
    Special Thanks
  • Luis Miguel Bajén
    Special Thanks
  • Angela Almeida
    Special Thanks
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    27 minutes 39 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 7, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    0 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    Spain, United Kingdom
  • Language:
    English, Other, Spanish
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Alex Greenwood

Alex Greenwood is a debut director and independent filmmaker with broadcast experience in the factual and animation spaces. At Monster Films, a small production company specialising in true crime, Alex developed a slate of paranormal themed shows, succeeding in multiple pitches to the TRVL Channel. Since then, he has taken on a variety of roles at Moonbug Entertainment, working on over a dozen children’s shows, most recently acting as the creative executive on MyGo - an American Sign Language show. He was also the creative executive on CoComelon: Spiel Mit Uns taking the show that broke the record for the longest stint in Netflix’s top 10 and redefining it for German audiences. Alex graduated from Oxford University with a degree in psychology and linguistics, where he pursued a particular interest in language change and the sociohistorical factors that impact it.

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Director Statement

I was a shy but excitable 10-year-old when I first visited Ansó in the Spanish Pyrenees, where I stayed with relatives back in 2009. In place of the rush that typified most of my family holidays, I felt an unfamiliar drop in pace; time seemed to operate differently in this sleepy village. Most of the buildings dated back to mediaeval times, while Ansó’s well-known commitment to the clothing and arts of that era evoked the sensation of stepping into a history book.

The part of this visit that always stuck out though, was seeing an unusual piece of theatre performed by members of Ansò’s close-knit community, including my uncle. Yésica, un abrío d'agora, a play about a cow called Jessica adventuring through the region, was written entirely in the local dialect: Ansotano. I did not realise it at the time – I’m sure I was mostly thinking about the Fantasmikos ice lollies melting in my lap – but for the first time I was experiencing art deeply embedded in the local tradition. It was art made in the medium of a language that had suffered censorship under Francisco Franco in the 20th century, to the point of near extinction. This felt quietly radical.

As I grew older, and having studied linguistics and psychology, my curiosity for this isolated rural enclave deepened. What made its little-spoken dialect survive these persistent pressures? What does it mean for communities when the authorities force local languages into a hierarchy – where one is deemed lesser than another? Our documentary sets out to explore the social structures that underpin language and the crucial role the performing arts play as a vessel for keeping cultures alive and thriving. The Día del Traje is a principal example of that; the day-long performance by the entire village, featuring parades, singing and dancing in full traditional dress, serves as a joyous celebration of this small yet steadfast community. Even though I am unable to speak Ansotano, I was able to bridge the linguistic gap through inner worlds of the language, its traditions and music – perhaps the only reasons that traces still remain.