Reprint: A Collective Impulse

This piece was originally published on the old blog in April 2015; it was a culmination of my investigations into ‘el otro cine español’ thus far, and also a form of preparation for attending the D’A Festival later that month. An earlier post – this one – explains why I was looking at this particular set of films. When I first started this new blog, I wrote a post outlining where I was up to with my ‘otro cine español’ project but not much has happened since (although if you click on the ‘otro cine español’ tag at the foot of this post, you will be able to see other connected pieces). My trip to the D’A Festival in April 2015 mainly stemmed from a realisation that if I wanted to see these films (and their newer incarnations), then I would need to travel to festivals because it is difficult to cross paths with them otherwise. But I’ve had to accept that I don’t currently have the resources for festival trips, and have put the project to one side for the time being – although I keep an eye on the various Spanish online platforms that might host such films. For now, this piece and the one written specifically for this blog are a summation of the project.

I haven’t attempted to update the main part of the text (I haven’t stayed up to date with the saga of Spanish film finance, although I don’t expect that the situation has improved at all – if anything, it’s likely to have got worse) but I am rejigging the postscript because the availability status of several of the films has changed (so that info is current as of August 2017).

 

Un impulso colectivo

Marginal cinemas – or cinema being made on the margins, outside the norms of a given industrial context – are nearly always present, if not always widely visible. In the past few years in Spain, specific actions by the Rajoy government (for example, dismantling the existing film finance infrastructure without putting anything in its place, and in September 2012 raising the IVA [VAT] on entertainment (including cinema tickets) from 8% to 21%), in combination with the dire economic situation, have thrown film production in Spain into disarray and further undermined confidence in the Spanish film industry – an industry that was already habitually said to be in near-perpetual crisis. These circumstances have exacerbated the financial precariousness of those filmmakers already operating on the margins; the current reliance on self-funding and / or crowdfunding is not sustainable in the long term, and nor does it afford people a secure way of making a living. At the same time, the visibility of these films on the margins has increased because their success at film festivals abroad has raised their profiles at home. This international recognition is often presented by the press as a fillip for a beleaguered industry that these filmmakers nonetheless remain outside of.

From an outsider’s perspective (i.e. mine), there seem to be two events that crystallised the growing attention directed at goings-on on the margins: the September 2013 issue of Caimán Cuadernos de Cine, which was dedicated to ‘el otro cine español’ (the first time I had seen these films presented as being related to each other, despite their disparities), and the ‘Un impulso colectivo’ [A Collective Impulse] section (which takes its name from programmer Carlos Losilla’s Caimán article) at the D’A – Festival Internacional de Cinema D’Autor de Barcelona in April 2014. That’s not to say that these types of films weren’t being supported and championed elsewhere – many screened abroad and / or at festivals such as San Sebastián and Seville prior to these two events – but Caimán and the D’A Festival drew attention to the films and filmmakers as a group in a way that seems important to me because cinema is not created in a vacuum, and the idea of a group (however nebulous) foregrounds that these films are not isolated or unrelated occurrences.

A brief outline of each of the 14 films in ‘Un impulso colectivo’ can be found here. In this post I am going to consider the films as a group in order to highlight some areas of commonality across the programme.

Form follows content –
The ‘Un impulso colectivo’ programme offered a panorama of marginal cinema(s) in Spain, encompassing a range of financial models (including self-financing, crowdfunding, local grants and subsidies) and diverse genres and styles (a deadpan sci-fi, a musical-comedy, essay films, documentaries, and social dramas among them). The films collectively demonstrate that lack of money does not equate with a lack of ambition or signify a lower standard of visual or technical competence. For example, in El triste olor de la carne (dir. Cristóbal Arteaga) the use of one continuous take in conjunction with recurring diegetic sound (Mariano Rajoy’s 2013 national address plays on radios in cars and on the bus, making the architect of Spanish austerity almost omniscient within the narrative) reflects the way in which financial disaster pursues, and is closing in on, Alfredo (Alfredo Rodríguez); the visual and the aural are combined to position the viewer inescapably alongside Alfredo throughout his ordeal, and create an emotionally draining experience.

There are distinct forms and structures in operation across the programme. For example, Vidaextra (dir. Ramiro Ledo) and Une histoire seule (dir. Xurxo Chirro & Aguinaldo Fructuoso) create dialogues with other texts (Peter Weiss’s The Aesthetics of Resistance and the work of Jean-Luc Godard respectively) in order to expand on a worldview or explore the filmmakers’ own experiences. In other films, the actual process of telling a story becomes central to the form they take: in different ways, Uranes (dir. Chema García Ibarra), Árboles (dir. Colectivo Los Hijos [Javier Fernández Vázquez, Luis López Carrasco, Natalia Marín Sancho]), Ilusión (dir. Daniel Castro), Los primeros días (dir. Juan Rayos), and Sobre la marxa (dir. Jordi Morató) all make storytelling, or the play of artistic creation, part of their structure and exploration of broader themes. In Los primeros días, the rehearsals are interwoven with cast interviews and footage of later performances; we see the text take on new meaning for the children as they live the experience, but the juxtapositions in the structure also reinforce the theme of life’s transient nature. Filmmakers also utilise Spain’s past (in the form of Spanish colonialism and the Transition) to draw parallels and highlight connections with events in contemporary Spain in Árboles, Ilusión, and El Futuro (dir. Luis López Carrasco).

‘The crisis’ and human connections –
The economic crisis and its fallout is perhaps unsurprisingly the most persistent theme, and is manifested in various guises. Most straightforwardly, Edificio España (dir. Víctor Moreno) inadvertently captures the moments leading up to the construction bubble bursting and the subsequent sense of paralysis, while El triste olor de la carne takes up the economic theme on the level of personal devastation. In a more comedic mode, Ilusión shows economic circumstances impinging on the personal (pursuing an artistic dream) and the industrial (the film industry’s unwillingness to take a financial risk) in Daniel’s quixotic quest to make a musical about the political pacts that formed Spain’s democracy. The crisis also plays out via generational discontent, as seen in Las aventuras de Lily ojos de gato (dir. Yonay Boix) and Vidaextra where people in their late-twenties / early-thirties are stuck in a kind of arrested development, unable to fulfil the expectations of adulthood, at least in part because of social precarity and the impossibility of reliably supporting themselves. There is an undercurrent of frustration and anger – and in some cases the sad weariness of defeat – in many of the representations of contemporary social circumstances.

While several of the films – Uranes, Cenizas (dir. Carlos Balbuena), Sobre la marxa – focus on individuals in solitude (whether by preference or otherwise), the majority show informal communities held together by either friendship or shared experience. Several of these – for example, Edificio España and Paradiso (dir. Omar A. Razzak) – centre on a specific locations, and spaces in danger of desertion; the observed absences in those spaces serve to highlight the connections between those still present. But in the films where these communities represent support networks, there is an emphasis on physicality and the tactility of human interactions – whether the young immigrants playing football and larking about in Slimane (dir. José A. Alayón), the children throwing and dancing each other around the stage in Los primeros días, or the alcohol-induced flirtations and bonhomie in Las aventuras de Lily ojos de gato. Similarly, the conversation at the centre of Vidaextra explores the need for a sense of belonging, to feel part of something bigger than yourself, but also for the society you live in to in some way reflect your values and ideals. Most of the films in ‘Un impulso colectivo’ are rooted in a specific social context – with varying degrees of explicitness, they say something about Spain today – but in the parallels drawn between past and present, many of the filmmakers also suggest the possibility of (or more pointedly, the need for) change and a collective resistance to a continuation of the status quo.

I’ve only skimmed the surface, but taken together these films underline that the richness of cinema is to be found in its plurality; ‘Un impulso colectivo’ gave a taste of a multitude of styles and voices (although notably few women) standing together in the current ‘otro cine español’.

 

Availability

As far as I can tell, ÁrbolesUne histoire seule, and Vidaextra are not currently available in any format. Back in 2015 most of these films were tricky to access, so I’d like to repeat my thanks to the following people for allowing me access to their work: Luis López Carrasco (twice over), Xurxo Chirro, Ramiro Ledo, Víctor Moreno (for giving me access to Edificio España before the DVD was available), Juan Rayos, Lourdes Pérez at Producción El Viaje (and Jonay García at Digital 104 for passing that request along), and Deica audiovisual.

DVD: Edificio España, Ilusión (no subtitles), Paradiso, Sobre la marxa. [the links take you to the most straightforward way to buy them if you’re in the UK, but they may be available elsewhere as well]

Filmin: CenizasEl FuturoEl triste olor de la carne, Los primeros díasSlimane, Sobre la marxa. [although Filmin can be viewed from anywhere, it will only allow you to purchase a subscription if you are in Spain – either do as I do (buy the subscription while visiting Spain), or find a friendly Spaniard to purchase on your behalf]

Márgenes: their VOD catalogue is currently down for maintenance, so I can’t link to specific films, but they have previously had Edificio EspañaEl triste olor de la carne, and Slimane. When their catalogue is back up, I will look for links.

Vimeo: Las aventuras de Lily ojos de gato (no subtitles), Paradiso (with subtitles), Uranes (with subtitles).

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Montaña en sombra / Mountain in Shadow (Lois Patiño, 2012)

Mountain in shadow from lois patiño on Vimeo.

One of my favourite short films from the last few years has been put up on Vimeo by its director. I saw Lois Patiño’s Montaña en sombra / Mountain in Shadow on the massive IMAX screen at the Bradford International Film Festival in 2014 where it accompanied Patiño’s feature debut, Costa da Morte / Coast of Death – in my 5-star review of the latter, I mention the short in the last paragraph. I feel privileged to have seen it in an ideal viewing environment originally, but it’s also nice to have the opportunity to watch it again (even on a small screen).

 

Stella Cadente (Lluís Miñarro, 2014)

stella-cadente2

Lluís Miñarro’s opulent and riotous Stella Cadente (which means ‘falling star’) is being released on DVD in the UK next week courtesy of Second Run.

On the surface an account of the short reign of King Amadeo I of Spain in the early 1870s – although this is a film where surfaces can be deceptive – Stella Cadente also functions as a metaphor for contemporary Spain and its ongoing state of crisis. But this is far from being a fossilised heritage drama – the afore-mentioned deceptive surfaces are manifested via a state of Wonderland-like limbo within the walls of the palace, and Miñarro laces the film with perverse humour and surreal juxtapositions (if I recall correctly, Àlex Brendemühl’s Amadeo is dancing to the anachronistic sound of 1970s French chanson in the above image). I was rather bemused by the ‘busy-ness’ of the film when I saw it at EIFF in 2014 (my Eye for Film review can be found here) but liked it sufficiently to import the Spanish DVD the following year – its chief pleasures are sparky performances by Brendemühl and Bárbara Lennie (who plays Amadeo’s wife, María Victoria), and the sense of reality being challenged by illusion in the layered theatricality created by Miñarro (for me, this confusion of reality versus illusion – in combination with the royal milieu – brought Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño / Life is a Dream to mind, although the director didn’t seem overly keen on the comparison when I asked about it during the Q&A). As I noted in my review, the film also includes my favourite subtitle of that year: “Set these rabbits free!”

Second Run’s presentation also includes one of Miñarro’s documentaries, Familystrip (2009) – while his parents have their portrait painted, the director converses with them about their lives, respective childhoods, raising a family in post-War Spain, and the social changes undergone by the country during their lifetimes. It combines oral history with a deeply affectionate cine-portrait of his family. You can buy the DVD directly from Second Run (it is also available from other retailers).

5th Festival Márgenes: free to view online 13th-31st December

Festival Margenes 2015

The first online festival in Spain specifically dedicated to films without a commercial release or without access to the normal methods of distribution, Festival Márgenes is now in its fifth year and continues to celebrate and support filmmakers and films committed to offering alternative perspectives on both cinema and society. The full list of criteria that the films have to meet can be found here – but essentially they have to be more than 40 minutes long, to have not been distributed, and to originate from a specific set of countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela). The films can be of any genre, although it’s noticeable that documentaries tend to feature strongly.
The festival takes place in cinemas in Madrid, Monterrey, Barcelona, Montevideo, Córdoba, México DF, and Santiago de Chile from the 3rd December and then moves online from the 13th until the 31st. The films are all available to stream for free (although there are a couple that aren’t viewable outside of specified locations – noted below). There are Spanish subtitles on films that aren’t in Spanish, but as far as I’m aware there are no English subtitles this year. But even if your Spanish is rudimentary, I’d encourage you to give it a go – a) because cinema communicates through visuals (and non-verbal sound) at least as much as it does through verbal interactions, b) you have the chance to watch some films that you possibly won’t encounter elsewhere.
I haven’t had time to start watching the 2015 selection yet, but I wrote about the 4th edition last year and saw several films that I really liked – namely África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014) [UPDATE Oct 2016: the film is available to rent on the Márgenes VOD platform – there’s no indication whether subtitles are included], El gran vuelo / The Great Flight (Carolina Astudillo, 2014) [UPDATE Oct 2016: also available to rent – likewise, no indication of subtitles], and Propaganda (Colectivo MAFI, 2014). Hopefully I’ll manage to watch more this year. The festival prizes have already been awarded (indicated below – but see the website for full details / jury citations and the breakdown of what the prizes entail), so I will prioritise those titles but I also want to see Revolução Industrial [Industrial Revolution] (which I’m sure I read about last year in relation to other festivals), Transeúntes (which was recently at the Seville Film Festival), and the special bonus film (not part of the competition) Ragazzi (Raúl Perrone, 2014) – I saw Perrone’s Favula in Barcelona earlier in the year (my review) and would like to see if his other films maintain the fevered rarity of that one. So basically I need more hours in the day between now and the end of the year.
It’s also worth pointing out that Márgenes has its own VOD catalogue outside of the festival – a mixture of shorts and features (some viewable for free, others pay-per-view for a modest fee) and all at the more original and idiosyncratic end of Spanish production, including several films I’ve written about previously (for example, Edificio España (Víctor Moreno, 2013) and Branka (Mikel Zatarain, 2013)).

Anyway, the full list of films in the 2015 official selection is below – clicking on the title will take you to the streaming page for that film. I will post something further when I’ve managed to watch some of the films. UPDATE (28/12/15): I’ve started watching the films and will add * next to the title if I find that they have English subtitles (note: I’m only going to have time to watch a few, so if you’re interested I suggest that you try streaming them to see whether subtitles appear). UPDATE (Oct 2016): several of the films from this collection are now available to rent on the Márgenes VOD platform – note that subtitles aren’t mentioned, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any (that was also the case during the festival period and all of the ones that I watched had subs).

Alexfilm (Pablo Chavarría, 2015), Mexico, 60 min.
As cidades e as trocas (Luísa Homem and Pedro Pinho, 2014), Portugal, 139 min.
El corral y el viento* (Miguel Hilari, 2014), Bolivia, 55 min. BEST FILM
La extranjera (Miguel Ángel Blanca, 2015), Spain, 70 min [only available in Spain].
La maldad* (Joshua Gil, 2015), Mexico, 74 min. SPECIAL MENTION BY THE JURY
La sombra* (Javier Olivera, 2015), Argentina, 72 min. CAMIRA PRIZE
L’Esma del Temps (El Sentido del Tiempo) (Alexandra Garcia-Vilà, Marta González, Marta Saleta, 2015), Spain, 54 min. HONORARY MENTION
Microbús (Alejandro Small, 2014), Peru, 44 min.
Navajazo (Ricardo Silva, 2014), Mexico, 75 min. [only available in Spain, Mexico, Chile & Uruguay].
Next (Elia Urquiza, 2015), Spain / USA, 72 min.
Revolução Industrial (Frederico Lobo and Tiago Hespanha, 2014), Portugal, 72 min.
Tú y Yo (Oriol Estrada and Natalia Cabral, 2014), Dominican Republic, 85 min. EXHIBITION PRIZE
Transeúntes* (Luis Aller, 2015), Spain, 101 min.

Crumbs (Miguel Llansó, 2015)

01_Crumbs

This is another film seen earlier in the year in a festival context – D’A Festival in Barcelona – and it’s one of my favourite films of 2015. I’ve spotted that it’s getting a US release today but it’s also going to be at Leeds Film Festival next month (ticket details can be found here).

I wrote about the film in the aftermath of going to Barcelona. My review of Crumbs (*****) is over at Eye for Film (here – fair warning: I’ve probably included too many plot details, so maybe hold off reading it until you’ve seen the film), where you can also find the interview I did with director Miguel Llansó (Part 1 and Part 2). I hope to revisit the film before the year is over – when I do, I will write a bit more about it on here.

Curtocircuíto – Santiago de Compostela International Short Film Festival 2015

Curtocircuito_poster

I have been covering Curtocircuíto from home in North East England rather than venturing to North West Spain – covering festivals from home always feels slightly fraudulent, as if I’m cheating, but travel and accommodation are costly aspects of going to film festivals and so on this occasion I had to be practical and forgo the festival atmosphere and focus on the films. The festival very kindly gave me access to most of the programme (the line-up can be found here), and I have managed to watch a fair range of what was on offer (and I may yet also delve into the filmography of Jørgen Leth – subject of a retrospective – because I’ve discovered that a lot of his films are available on DocAlliance). I will be writing a report on the festival this week (probably with a focus on the Galician films, given that Novo Cinema Galego is an interest of mine), which I will link to on here once it is up. In the meantime, I’ve written a round-up of the award winners.

I have also reviewed five of the films from across the programme – as usual, links to be added once they are online:

Becoming Anita Ekberg_03

Becoming Anita Ekberg (Mark Rappaport, 2014) – an essay film (or film essay?) exploring the formation of Ekberg’s star image.

 

In the Distance_02

In the Distance (Florian Grolig, 2015) – an animated take on isolation in time of war.

 

Neither God_01

Ni Dios ni Santa María / Neither God nor Santa María (Helena Girón and Samuel M. Delgado, 2015) – witchery and voices from the past.

 

Night Without Distance_03

Noite sem distância / Night Without Distance (Lois Patiño, 2015) – the film that I was most eager to catch up with (regular readers will know that Patiño’s Costa da Morte was my favourite film last year). Another investigation of the Galician landscape, this time in the form of a smuggling operation across the Galicia-Portugal border and utilising a colour negative image.

 

Ulterior_01

Ulterior (Sabrina Muhate, 2014) – an essay film on death and life and our bodies in those states. Unnerving (although admittedly I am squeamish) but I think that this is a director with her own voice (and eye).

Art, Seascapes, and Life

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been specifically focussed on documentaries for a while in relation to my otro cine español project, but I have also wandered off course to watch a wider range of documentaries and essay films than I might have done in the past. There’s an idea brewing in my mind in relation to the Spanish docs, so I thought that with this post I’d take a brief look at some of the other documentaries that I’ve seen this year.
In addition to writing about Ciutat Morta (Xavier Artigas and Xapo Ortega, 2014) and La danza del hipocampo/ The Dance of the Memory (Gabriela Domínguez Ruvalcaba, 2014) on the old site, I’ve also reviewed a fair few documentaries at Eye for Film so far this year: Arraianos (Eloy Enciso, 2012); Burden of Peace (Joey Boink and Sander Wirken, 2014); Dancing in Jaffa (Hilla Medalia, 2013); The First Film (David Wilkinson, 2015); Humano (Alan Stivelman, 2013); The Iron Ministry (JP Sniadecki, 2014); Life is Sacred (Andreas Dalsgaard, 2014); N-VI Vanishing Roads (Pela del Álamo, 2012); No Land’s Song (Ayat Najafi, 2014); Precinct Seven Five (Tiller Russell, 2014); Prophet’s Prey (Amy Berg, 2014); and Vikingland (Xurxo Chirro, 2011). Most of the reviews that I write for Eye for Film are for films showing at festivals so – because I don’t often review ‘new releases’ and because the focus of the old site was exclusively Spanish – I generally haven’t written about (apart from handwritten notes in a notebook) the ones I watch in other circumstances (y’know, for fun).
There have been a number of new documentaries released this year that I haven’t managed to see yet. Those that spring immediately to mind are Maidan (Sergei Loznitsa, 2014), Dreamcatcher (Kim Longinotto, 2015), Best of Enemies (Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, 2015) and Albert Maysles’s final film, In Transit (2015). But of the ones I have seen so far this year (new and newish), here are some of the standouts (listed in alphabetical order):

Zatarain_BrankaBranka (Mikel Zatarain, 2013) – Opening with an epigraph from John Donne’s ‘No Man is an Island’, Branka (the name of a still-publishing magazine founded by exiled Basques in Belgium in the 1960s – a piece of information I gleaned from this in-depth interview with Zatarain over at Desistfilm) consists of 27 minutes of a static camera shot of an island dis/appearing in and out of the mist on a seascape that is for the most part indistinguishable from the sky. The day passes and night falls with the island illuminated by lightning and domestic lights before disappearing back into the mist. Zatarain creates a soundscape that merges domestic and street sounds with a political edge (news reports and chants from a march calling for amnesty for political prisoners) – the audio is less tranquil than the visuals – alongside the sound of the sea. Part of a triptych about Basque society and the ethics / poetry of the image (poética = poetic, ética = ethics), the film is viewable for free online (along with several others of Zatarain’s films) in a collection – La (po)ética de la imagen – at margenes.org.

Hand GesturesIl Gesto Delle Mani / Hand Gestures (Francesco Clerici, 2015) – The process from beginning to end – from wax to glazed bronze, and showing the detailed speciality of each artisan involved – of the making of Velasco Vitali’s famous dog sculptures in the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, a 100-year old foundry in Milan. The title comes from the epigraph with which the film opens – “Sculpture is not a concept. Sculpture is a hand gesture. In the gesture of the body lays the relationship with the world: the way you see it, the way you feel it, the way you own it” (Giacomo Manzù (1908-1991), sculptor). There is no voiceover and only minimal verbal exchanges between the people onscreen – it is all about the craft. It is a genuine privilege to watch such craftsmanship up close and I found this a fascinating and riveting film. Trailer.

Jetlag01Jet Lag (Eloy Domínguez Serén, 2014) – Described by the director as ‘the chronicle of the film that could never, or never wanted to be’, the film was supposed to be a portrait of people working unsocial hours late at night. But in the process of making the film, the filmmakers found themselves inserted into it as well because over the course of four nights circumstances caused a camaraderie to build between them and their ostensible subject, the manager of an all-night petrol station. The film captures the natural development of this happening, starting off with the sideways glances that implicitly acknowledge the camera’s presence and gradually moving on to more involved conversations between people in front and behind the camera.

Life May BeLife May Be (Mark Cousins and Mania Akbari, 2014) – Some films just set your neurons firing. An exchange of letters in the form of short films sent between Mark Cousins and Mania Akbari as they discuss art, identity, the body, cinema, and exile. I watched this as a rental (it’s available in the UK on GooglePlay and iTunes) and then immediately bought a permanent download. Then I bought the only one of Akbari’s films that’s available here – One. Two. One. (2011) (the release of which by SecondRun DVD was the initial connection between the two filmmakers because Cousins was asked to contribute an essay, which in turn became the starting point for this film) – and Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (which I’ve never seen, but Akbari is the lead) because I want to know more about her and where she’s coming from. I intend to return to this one because parts of it have burrowed into my head – but I need to watch the other Akbari films first.

National GalleryNational Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, 2014) – With no sign of this appearing in my home city (although it did turn up a few weeks later), I went to Edinburgh in order to see National Gallery in a cinema because I felt sure that the paintings would need to be seen on as large a scale as possible. Wiseman’s film is about the National Gallery as an institution and all of the facets of what that entails – the economics of the place, bureaucracy, the institution as a brand (the struggle between being a national, public space and yet apparently not wanting to appeal to the lowest common denominator), education, conservation, curatorship, craftsmanship, art history, the interpretation of art, and the act of looking. If art can encompass everything, this film attempts to do likewise and to consider the place from every possible angle. My favourite bits were probably the ‘inner workings’-type segments showing restoration, conservation, and craftsmanship (for example, the making of the picture frames would not ordinarily be part of the public discussion / consideration of art, and yet it clearly has an impact on how the art is seen), but it is also a joy to listen to experts enthuse about their respective specialisms.

Transatlantique02Transatlantique / Transatlantic (Félix Dufour-Laperrière, 2014) – Black and white. Dialogue free. A dream-like travelogue of a cargo ship’s transatlantic journey between Antwerp and Montreal. I know that I will get another chance to see this later in the year, so I will write about it in more detail then.

Vivan las AntipodasVivan las Antipodas! (Victor Kossakovsky, 2011) – This was recommended to me by Eye for Film editor Amber Wilkinson a while back but I didn’t get the chance to see it until Doc Alliance had an online season of Kossakovsky’s films (the film is still available as VOD on their site and I also recommend The Belovs (1992)). Setting up a series of contrasts between the landscapes, textures, and ways of life on opposite points on the globe (Argentina / China, Spain / New Zealand, Chile / Russia, Botswana / Hawaii), this visually dynamic film is a feast for the eyes – the juxtaposition of music and movement makes it seem like the camera dances in certain sequences while in others Kossakovsky puts the world on its head.

El otro cine español

Costa da Morte_2

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‘).
EdificioEspana_posterIn 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.