Sent off for a Jesuit education by his prosperous Spanish parents, Luis Buñuel went on to attend the University of Madrid, where he first became interested in the burgeoning European film industry. Upon graduating from Paris' Academie du Cinema, his first movie job was as an assistant to French-based directors Jean Epstein and Mario Nalpas. In partnership with an old friend, Spanish painter/sculptor Salvador Dali, Buñuel put together the three-reel surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou (1928), the film that features dead donkeys on a piano, a razor slashing an eyeball, and other deliberately shocking images that cineastes have either praised or damned for the past seven decades.
Buñuel's first feature film, L'Age d'Or, was banned from public exhibition almost immediately from the moment of its 1930 premiere; its principal opponents were high-ranking members of the Catholic church, who condemned the film as savagely sacrilegious. After 1932's Land Without Bread, an uncompromising look at the squalor, poverty, and ignorance inherent in Spain's peasant villages, Buñuel signed on at Paramount Paris in 1933, overseeing the dubbing of Hollywood pictures. He moved on to an executive producer's post at Madrid's Filmfono Studios, where, during the Spanish Civil War, he began work on a Hollywood-financed pro-Loyalist film that was abandoned when Franco emerged victorious.