Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

Research student insight

Clara Guillen


Clara Guillén


Clara is conducting research for her PhD where she is investigating the representation of immigrants in eight Spanish films. The films represent a mixture of documentaries and fiction made by both Spanish and non-Spanish filmmakers from the 1990s to 2011.

Her passion for cinema started whilst studying for a MA Translation at the University of the West of England, during which she also started her Doctorate at the University of Murcia in Spain based on British cinema.

I discovered the fascinating world of British cinema and gender studies so by the time when I came back to live in the UK, I knew I wanted to carry on researching on the same field.

Research framework

Clara’s research focusses on the ways in which migrant and non-migrant filmmakers reframe the urban space to create opportunities for a free, although contested, exchange between marginal voices and the mainstream Spanish society.

My main aim is to describe how and to what extent the films open the space for political argumentation.

Drawing upon theoretical frameworks from French philosopher Jacques Rancière as well as arguments from critics including Hamid Naficy, Doreen Massey, Michel de Certau and Henri Lefebvre; Clara’s research provides an in-depth analysis of the extent to which films challenge forms of exclusion, with particular reference to ethnicity and gender.

I am aware of the difficulties of making changes in our society but there is always something that we can do to make a change for the best… I am passionate about being able to contribute to make different communities come closer and I hope to make it through my research.

The PhD experience

As a mother of two, Clara’s biggest challenge has been finding the right balance between family and research life, but the key for her is good time management. She was also helped by Dr Deborah Martin, Dr Everett and Dr David Clarke who aided Clara in her proposal for funding.

The area of migration studies is very current and relevant in Spain since it is a very recent phenomenon compared to other European countries like the UK, Germany or France.

Furthermore, Clara has found the whole experience of researching for her PhD a great time for self-reflection.

Being a Spanish immigrant myself in Britain I am finding my research very interesting, not only for the learning experience of going through a PhD, but also because it is helping me understand my own migrating feelings and experiences and those of my Latin American and Spanish friends in the UK.

Future plans

When Clara has completed her thesis, she already has plans to start work on her next project in which she wants to film a documentary about immigrants in Bristol.

I have already thought about some ideas and I am really excited about it.

Clara also had the opportunity to present a paper at the Bremen Film Festival where she met this year’s award winner, the Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr, who gave her some great inspiration to pursue her next project.

If you want to make a film, do not look at the right, do not look at the left, just go for it!

Further information

Find out more about Clara's research by emailing:

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