Back in early 2014 I started what could loosely be termed a ‘project’ to explore the phenomenon that was being labelled el otro cine español [the other Spanish cinema] by certain quarters of the specialist Spanish press. My starting point was this list of 52 filmmakers published by Caimán Cuadernos de Cine in August 2013. From the outset I said that I had some issues with how the list had been compiled, and as I started watching the films I found it to be an increasingly nebulous term that was attempting to corral an unwieldy and disparate group of people. By July 2014 I had decided that the documentaries would be the best place to start – and so I set off, in quite a haphazard way, mainly watching (rather than writing about) those recent(ish) Spanish documentaries that could be said to fall into this otro cine español category (everything I’ve written so far on the topic can be found here).
To be honest, in the second half of 2014 / start of 2015 I got distracted by documentaries and essay films more generally (irrespective of nationality) – this coincided with increased attention being paid to documentaries in the film press (or was it just that my attention had increased and therefore I noticed more writing on the subject?) including Sight & Sound‘s documentary poll, so there was a lot to be distracted by – which is why there is a ‘documentary’ category in the menu of this new site. I wandered off track and lost focus (or redirected my focus because I knew I was going to the D’A Festival in April and therefore I wanted to look at how they had ‘promoted’ the idea of el otro cine español as a kind of movement through a strand of the 2014 festival programme called ‘Un impulso colectivo‘).
In relation to the Spanish documentaries, so far the only substantial piece I’ve written was the standalone post on Edificio España (Víctor Moreno, 2013). I have an idea for something I want to write about a particular group of Spanish documentaries (specifically those that have sought to address the financial crisis and its social impact in Spain), but there are a couple more films that I want to watch first – Pablo Llorca’s recent diptych El gran salto adelante / The Great Leap Forward (2014) and País de todo a 100 / The Palace Without Stairs (2014) (the first is fiction, the latter a documentary) and ReMine: El último movimiento obrero / ReMine: The Last Working Class Movement (Marcos M. Merino, 2014). I have all three films – I just need to actually watch them and then work out how / if they fit with ones I’ve already seen. I had planned to write this in August but the combination of things going on at work and moving online sites has scuppered that, so it will have to continue fluttering around my mind for the time being.
So, anyway, I had lost my focus. But in addition to that, what I observed in Barcelona also made me question whether this otro cine español was a real movement or simply a convenient tag to apply to filmmakers who are working outside of the industrial norm in Spain. Branding of a sort – which has its own uses for the filmmakers in question if they can travel as a group – but a very loose wrapper to bind together some filmmakers who are actually quite distinct from each other in terms of the films they are making. Interestingly, the people I interviewed in Barcelona seemed just as uncertain as to whether they were part of an actual phenomenon or if it is only the latest incarnation of an ongoing occurrence that had (for a range of reasons) gained more press attention in the past couple of years. While I was pondering that, I also interviewed Xurxo Chirro in relation to Iberodocs’s ‘Focus on Galicia’ and his description of el otro cine español as being like an archipelago where filmmakers either work alone or in small clusters (rather than a larger, coherent movement) made a lot of sense to me – because some of those clusters (the filmmakers included in (Im)Possible Futures at the D’A Festival, those who form the Novo Cinema Galego [New Galician Cinema], and arguably some groups associated with certain film schools) are clearly apparent within the more unwieldy mass.
That’s where I’d got up to in May – then I went to EIFF, the annual upheaval kicked off at work (note to self: your name is on here now), and so on. I’ve not got much further than considering the concept from that angle. I said in May that I wanted to write the documentary piece first before changing my approach to el otro cine español (documentaries will still be part of that mix, but I think that approaching individual clusters of filmmakers will be a more fruitful way of tackling the topic). I’m now intending to watch the three remaining films mentioned above (and give more thought to drawing those documentaries together for something) but I’m also just going to get started on looking at the archipelago. I will start with the Novo Cinema Galego because I have already seen almost all of the key films by that group of filmmakers. I’ll give my usual caveat – it won’t appear instantaneously because I tend to mull things over until I reach some undefined magical point of enlightenment, but also because there are potentially 2-3 film festivals in September and October that I’m interested in (depending on their programmes) so they will have to be factored in to my schedule. But I’m happy to have a new trail to start down.