The film focuses on the Las Hurdes region of Spain, the mountainous area around the town La Alberca, and the intense poverty of its occupants. Buñuel, who made the film after reading the ethnographic study Las Jurdes: étude de géographie humaine (1927) byMaurice Legendre, took a Surrealist approach to the notion of the anthropological expedition. The result was a travelogue in which the narrator’s extreme (indeed, exaggerated) descriptions of human misery of Las Hurdes contrasts with his flat and uninterested manner.
Buñuel claimed: “I was able to film Las Hurdes thanks to Ramon Acin, an anarchist from Huesca,…who one day at a cafe inZaragoza told me, ‘Luis, if I ever won the lottery, I would put up the money for you to make a film.’ He won a hundred thousandpesetas…and gave me twenty thousand to make the film. With four thousand I bought a Fiat; Pierre Unik came, under contract fromVogue to write an article; and Eli Lotar arrived with a camera loaned by Marc Allegret.”
Although some film scholars describe it as a documentary, Land Without Bread is in fact, according to film studies scholar Jeffrey Ruoff, an early (some might say prescient) parody of the barely invented genre of documentary filmmaking.