Tirma, the island princess (1954): Gran Canaria in cinemas

Ok, first thing to say (and it’s not a spoiler alert): don’t expect a historical movie! 🙂

A part this first important specification, let’s go to see what happened in 1954 when director Paolo Moffa (already known as assistant director and documentarist since year 1934) decided to write the screenplay for Tirma – La Principessa delle Canarie, and he purpose it to INFIES productions: two countries were involved in the recordings, Spain and Italy, and at the same time the most shiny stars of the epoca have been called to make Tirma a great success: for Italy, Marcello Mastroianni and Silvana Pampanini (the two “good” protagonists”); for Spain, even if he was Uruguayan, Gustavo Rojo (in the role of the “bad” Bentejuì or Bantanai in the Italian version).

Schermata 2018-04-20 alle 11.59.32

The point is that what could have been a good historical movie, became for obvious commercial reasons a classical love story in the perfect style of 1950s, so you will see (again, not-a-spoiler-alert!) some amazing red sunsets on the ocean, two figures on a quiet horse walking like shadows of lovers, a bad guy struggling for the love of his queen, a evil priest-councilman that “shakespearianly” kills the old king, a good foreigner stealing the same queen’s heart etc. All this happens in the first 25 minutes, so you can suppose that it will be quite a short movie. Well, it’s not.

But… despite some easy jokes, what can we really say about Tirma, the island princess?

Canarian population shouldn’t be happy for the way the movie explain the history, and here’s the main reason: Bentejuì figure. I already dedicated an article about him, because it’s probably the most important figure in the Canarian pre-hispanic past.
In the movie he appears like a Tarzan without his Cheetah, a laconic schizophrenic guy divided by only two desires: war and love.
But in the real story he was the cousin of guanarteme Tenesor Semidan, chief of Galdar (at that time, called Agaldàr), and he really was the rebel aborigine, leader of the resistance against the Spanish Crown’s Army.

The historical facts talks about the abduction of Tenesor Semidan to Spain in 1482 and his mandatory conversion to Catholicism with the name Fernando Guanarteme. Some locals still consider him a traitor, others a good strategist… but at the end he found his way back to the island, as official representative of the Spanish Kings.

Here’s the main difference between the reality and the movie (…and THIS is a SPOILER ALERT!). 🙂

In the reality Fernando Guanarteme held a meeting with the rebels, trying to make the internal war ends. On 29 april 1483 he talks to the same Bentejuì in the rock of Ansite… and we only know what happened after that talking: princess Guayarmina turned herself to the spanish guards and, after this, she will be baptized as Margarita Fernández Guanarteme; instead, Bentejuí commit suicide, as well as in the movie, but in a different way; he was together with the faycán of Telde, shouting the legendary phrase “Atis Tirma!” – that means “Glory to the sacred mountain!” – when falling into the ocean.

The movie Tirma completely jump on this part, on the family relationships and their evolution; instead, it just show us the arrival of the “good” Spanish (of course, the movie was a co-production with Italy and don’t forget that there was the dictatorship of General Franco in Spain on that time). Just some facts that explains why the entire character of the movie is so nationalistic: the role of Marcello Mastroianni as Diego is huge, positive, tolerant with the different people and (so open-minded!) he falls in love with a indigene even before knowing she was a princess, so it’s real love with no conspiracy doubts; now, the role of Gustavo Rojo as Bentejuì… is the opposite. He really hates the Spanish, just because they’re Spanish. And they never attack if not for response, the first scene already starts with a angry Bentejuì. Practically all the story in the film turns around his and Diego’s love for the princess Guayarmina (starred by the great Silvana Pampanini). And that’s it! No more intertwining of patterns in this movie.

So the only story is this one, and being honest it’s pretty good… despite what has been written until now! You should always consider that it was made for a 1950s public! There are all the main things that they could have cried for, especially during the scene  of the village reunion, when the poor Guayarmina refuses to marry Bentejuì against her will. After this it explode the real war: Bentejuì is definitely went crazy for her love and try to kill as more Spanish he can… it sounds like the Troy War, if you pass me this citation. There was Elena, here’s Guayarmina. Luckily we know that the real history was different, but we can still enjoy the movie as a fantasy piece.

Oh, don’t look at the fact that the mount Roque Nublo is ALWAYS visible in the scenes! It’s the most representative rock on the island of Gran Canaria; if it hadn’t been there, all the Italian public would have thought to watch a western movie, made in Sardinia… 10 years in advance! 🙂

Enjoy the view for free on Youtube, here in Spanish and Italian.

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