Cinema programme directed by Julio Pérez Perucha

Let us remember with ruthless clarity how, in October 1967 in Sitges, Catalonia, an assembly of (practising or potential) film-makers laid bare the imposed political, expressive and democratic shortcomings of the cinema of the time - even when it was most committed to the struggle for democracy; how, in 1968, the Anti-Franco struggles intensified among us: and how 1969 began with a state of emergency. As if that were not enough, in the field of cinema, censorship worsened and the obstacles from the corporate unions (vertical unions = anti-democratic, remember) grew apace. As a result, many film-makers/auteurs threw in the towel having decided that the room for manoeuvre within the system was going from minimal to non-existent. So they would simply turn their backs on the laws of Franco's government. From then on, their films would be alegal, when they were not completely illegal; semi-clandestine when they were not completely clandestine, meaning that they – both films and film-makers – could at any time become victims of police harassment.

This protean, exciting movement was started in 1967, based around two axes. Firstly, the refutation of the formal, signifying and rhetorical mechanisms right across the whole range of formulae in the predominant, and conventionally industrial or commercial, cinema. The argument is that the struggle against Franco's (or the capitalist) system began in cultural (that is to say ideological) spheres by attacking the mechanisms of communication and consumption: and from that perspective the choice of elements of reference was not decisive. The second axis was that which ensured that all anti-Franco political activity should be steeped in reality, thereby recuperating and restoring – for the viewer - the growing popular struggles taking place, making the arguments more immediately readable, leaving "formalist" experimentation for a less urgently needful time. An old debate, then. Obviously, on more than one occasion, the two axes became one.

This movement, which, by the 70s, was breaking down into the "Cine de la Transicion" group (which owes no small part of its richness to the movement) is documented, through representative cases, by the films shown during this season.


Every Thursday from the 31st of March until the 9th of June 2005, at 7.30 pm

Talk by Julio Pérez Perucha, curator of the film season. Showings (73 min.)
Premis nacionals (National Awards)( Pere Portabella, 1969) ( 9 min.)
Ice Cream (Antoni Padrós, 1970) (8 min.)
Acció Santos (Santos Action) (Carles Santos 1972) (12 min.)
Bost (José Julián Bakedano, 1973) (11min.)
Viaje a la explotación (Journey to Exploitation)(Cooperativa de Cine Alternatiu, 1974)(18 min.)
Antisalmo” (Antipsalm) (Llorenç Soler, 1977) (15 min.)

About the film: "Viaje a la explotación"

“Drawing on the life experience of a Moroccan emigrant, Mustapha – if one can talk of life experiences when describing the series of misfortunes that befall him following a work accident, the film presents the latent discrimination and racism that exists in our society. Since 1969, when many thousands of Spanish workers had already emigrated, Algerians and Moroccans have been arriving and heading for our most industrialised cities, the places that have most need of unskilled labour, like Barcelona… Despite the growing unemployment that already existed… capitalism used these North-African immigrants principally in the construction sector, a sector that is perfectly suited to the most blatant forms of exploitation… With no chance of demanding their rights, unorganised, without any contact with their Spanish colleagues (mainly because of the language difficulties), with no health insurance, isolated in authentic ghettos… These are the co-ordinates on which the film has been based, a true social document that fits fully within the tenets that the alternative cinema proposes…”

Santiago de Benito, Cinema 2002, n.º 8, octubre de 1975, p. 62.

7th APRIL (117 min) Uts cero, Javier Aguirre, 1969; EspectadorRellotgeLlumConversa (ViewerClockLightConversation), Carles Santos, 1967; Che, che, che, Javier Aguirre, 1969; Monegros, Antonio Artero, 1969; Aidez l’Espagne (Help Spain), Pere Portabella, 1969; Ana, José Antonio Sistiaga, 1970; Una historia decente, (A Respectable Story) Gerardo García, 1971; Swedenborg, Antoni Padrós, 1972.

This session will show films that reject outright any commercial or industrial-institutional format, including the ‘anti-cinema’ of Aguirre or the works connected with conceptual art by Santos and Portabella and an (anti)documentary by Antonio Artro that comes close to situationism. Other films include: the markedly anti-Franco Aidez l'Espagne (Help Spain); a penetrating and experimental reflection on restless unease (Ana); a radical naturalist adaptation of a tale by Buñuel, Una historia decente (A decent story); and, from 1972, a disturbing proto-surrealist reflection by Padrós on the tensions within couples, and within the culture.

14th APRIL (115 min) Sexperiencias, (Sexperiences) J. M. Nunes, 1969; Largo viaje hacia la ira, (Long Journey to Anger) Llorenç Soler, 1969.

In 1968, the Barcelona School filmmaker José María Nunes, filmed Sexperiencias, a feature-length film about the complex webs woven together by political struggle and amorous desire. The reaction of the administration was to hurl the film into the void of official non-existence, condemning it to clandestine diffusion. At the same time Llorenç Soler was filming Largo viaje hacia la ira (The Long Journey into Rage), a disquieting work dealing with immigration, slum-living and the shanty-towns in the Barcelona of the time of desarrollismo - the rapid and uncontrolled development of the city. The film was able, however, to count on the financial support of a certain institution disposed to cover itself with a coating of democratic liberalism.

21st APRIL (114 min) Travelling, Lluis Rivera, 1972; D’una matinada, (Early One Morning) María Montes, 1972; Sega Cega (She Reaps Blind) (José Gandía Casimiro, 1972; Manual de ritos y ceremonias, (Manual of Rites and Ceremonies) Josep Lluis Seguí / María Montes, 1973; De la finestra estant, (From the Window) Chimo Vidal, 1974; Arriluce, José Angel Rebolledo, 1974.

At the beginning of 1970 a small group of young filmmakers appeared in Valencia, a group whose existence was to be short-lived – just three or four years – and which was characterised by the modernity of their conceptions and the originality of the solutions they adopted. Drawing on the support of a business structure that worked in the production of publicity films, and situating themselves in the theoretical shadow offered by Marxism, Situationism or Semiotics, these filmmakers wove together fiction, documentary effects and “montage films” with a stimulating and youthful ease.

28th APRIL (119 min) María, Javier Rebollo, 1972; Bi, José Julián Bakedano, 1972; Esbozo, (Sketch) Juan Ortuoste, 1972; Brindis en la huerta, (A Toast in the Allotment) Juan Ortuoste / Javier Rebollo, 1974; Salitre, (Saltpetre) Javier Rebollo / Juan Ortuoste, 1974; Axut, José María Zabala, 1976.

The members of the Cine Club Universitario in Bilbao set up a production group in 1970 that during its three long years of life displayed an attractive, though uneven, effervescence. Javier Rebollo, in María, confronts us with the everyday misery of an adolescent, while Salitre (Saltpetre) by Rebollo, and Brindis en la huerta (A Toast in the Allotment), by Ortuoste, deal with the couple as an asphyxiating and self-destructive structure. A work with a very different purpose is Bi, by José Julián Bakedano, a film that sets the dynamism of abstract forms against that of two characters from an old American comedy film. The musician José María Zabala offers us an unusual feature film in which by weaving together poetry, painting and music he warns us against a horizon of repression and sadness.

5th MAY (113 min.) Universidad 71-72, (University 71-72) Colectivo de Cine de Madrid, 1972; Vitoria, (Victory) Colectivo de Cine de Madrid, 1976; Can Serra, Colectivo de Cine Alternativo, 1976; José Luis Cano, Francisco Avizanda, 1977.

The Colectivo de Cine de Madrid (Madrid Cinema Collective) (1971-1978) was created with the aim of filming all kinds of events in order to make a documentary record, from a militant anti-Franco perspective, of the journey towards the restoration of democracy. University 71-72 and Vitoria form part of what was then known as the ‘militant’ or ‘counter-information cinema’ which was at a highpoint at that moment. This is demonstrated by the film A José Luis Cano, dedicated to him and to all those killed during the struggle for amnesty, in which Avizanda depicts one of the last moments of anti-democratic Spain. Similarly, Can Serra by the Cooperativa de Cinema Alternatiu (the Alternative Cinema Co-operative) offers a detailed view of a series of political problems of the time.

 About the film: "Can Serra, la objeción de conciencia en España"

Until 1976, the only information that Spanish society had about conscientious objectors was that Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to do the compulsory military service. From time to time, the pro-Franco press referred to this, trying to make out that it was simply an isolated and ridiculous protest. However, it was true that there had been some non-religious objectors, and the case that received most publicity – though admittedly very limited – was perhaps that of Pepe Beúnza from Valencia.
At the end of 1975, just after the death of Franco, a group of fugitives from military service got in touch with the Cooperativa de Cinema Alternatiu. They had decided to start a campaign in favour of conscientious objection; their intention was to spend a year doing community service in the neighbourhood of Can Serra and, then, call a Press Conference to explain their reasons and what they had done.
Can Serra was a newly formed neighbourhood in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, bordering Barcelona, in which many of the people who had arrived in the waves of immigration of the ‘60s had settled. The CCA accepted the proposal to document the various tasks and activities that the members of this group undertook during the year. Finally, shortly before the Press Conference, recordings were made of their opinions and arguments against war and military service. It was evident that once they made public their decision, they would be imprisoned. For this reason the film set out to give them a voice, and to publicise their intention to undertake a great campaign throughout Spain.
Perhaps this is the ‘marginal film’ of which the greatest number of copies were made, and that which had the greatest diffusion through a very wide variety of channels. Looking back from here, 2005, several aspects of the film are worth commenting on. At that time, in the ‘60s, when there was just one State-run pro-Franco television channel, Spanish society had no visual reference, depicting the brutish reality, of the wars that were being fought in the world, unlike now. That’s why it was important to include images of the Vietnam War in the film Can Serra. The scenes of American soldiers, cigarette dangling from the mouth, having their photo taken as they stand with one foot on top of a Vietnamese corpse, or brutally beating and killing other soldiers at point-blank range, recall the sadly famous images shot in the prisons of Iraq. The film also made clear, in the mid-sixties, the dangers associated with that new consumer society whose development could already be glimpsed.
J.M. Martí Rom

12th MAY (114 min.) Film sin nombre, (Film Without a Name) Llorenç Soler, 1970; Un libro es un arma, (A Book is a Weapon) Colectivo de Cine Alternativo, 1975; Torera, (Female Bullfighter) Llorenç Soler, 1975; A la vuelta del grito, (On the Waltzer) Colectivo Cine de Clase, 1978.

This session offers glimpses of the different faces of what was known as the ‘independent cinema’. Films that were always in an ambiguous situation with respect to the law, such as Pelicula sin nombre (The Film with No Name), Largo viaje hacia la ira or Un libro es un arma (A Book is a Weapon) occupied the space of counter-information or documentary film. Others, such as Torera (The Woman Bullfighter) or A la vuelta del grito (When the Scream Comes Back) tended more, formally speaking, towards experimentalism.


About the film: "Un libro es un arma"

“It doesn’t interest us, I repeat. Burning the awning of a cinema or a miserable little bookshop is stupid. These things, if you are going to do them, have to be done properly, tearing out the evil at the roots. Once we come to power, we will organise our own Day of the Book, burning absolutely all the red trash that’s lying around. A great pyre like when Hitler took power… Better: all the reds and all the Jews on the upper floors of the College of Architects in Barcelona and all the Marxist books on the lower floors. Set fire to all the books and there you are, everything sorted…”
Voice Off in the film, reading an interview with some ‘ultra’ youngsters, published in the press in 1974. This film is an inventory of the attacks by members of the extreme right aimed at the world of culture during the last years of the Franco regime, the early ‘70s. The film covers the attacks against the Taller Picasso, the Cinc d’Ors bookshop, Nova Terra, Distribuciones del Enlace… It includes interviews with, amongst others, Joaquim Romaguera (from the Viceversa bookshop), the publisher Beatriz de Moura and the writer Alfonso Carlos Comín. The latter explains “we live in a country where the cultural grievance is a matter of the first order, in which some fight using intelligence and others with the arms of violence, fire, the bomb and the terrorist attack… It is extraordinarily significant that these attacks… have begun to take place just when the country was emerging from a cultural desert, from the frustration that we had lived with for decades … These gentlemen of Down with intelligence… are not aware that bell is tolling for the barbarians, that all of that is coming to an end… Culture can’t be buried. You can burn culture, incinerate it, but you can’t bury it, I mean, that at some time or another the ashes of the books become seeds that are scattered widely and reproduce…”
In February 1975, before shooting the film, an extensive dossier was drawn up entitled “Attacks against culture”, containing all the press cuttings relating to the attacks made since November 1971. By selling this dossier through clandestine circuits the finance required to make the film was obtained. The prologue, unsigned, was by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, who finished by saying: “…They are the same complicities that can be noted after any attempt to slow the irreversible march of the whole of the Spanish society towards democracy. The ‘ultras’ have attempted to stop this process by throwing up smoke screens and making lots of noise, trying to obscure the printed word and the filmed image. They have never understood that books and films are always closely bound up with the state of the historical consciousness of the society. And this consciousness, dynamic, critical, is unstoppable.” “Given the difficulties implicit in this kind of report, the makers have managed to produce a living and real document that shows the state the premises that were attacked were left in… Simply for enabling us to contemplate this authentic demonstration of what alternative cinema should be, we should congratulate the collective who made it possible…” Santiago de Benito, Cinema 2002, n.º 8, octubre de 1975, p. 63.


19th MAY (115 min.) O todos o ninguno (All of them or None of Them) (Colectivo Cine de Clase, 1976; 682.3133 Buffalo Minnesota, Carles Santos, 1977; Noticiari III, (News Bulletin III) Colectivo de Cine Alternativo, 1977; Resumen de noticias, (News Summary) Francisco Avizanda, 1978.

This programme brings together different films from the period 1976-1978. The depiction of the strike in O todos o ninguno (All or None) alternates modernist touches with very varied contributions and information from the people who were actors in the conflict. 628-3133 Buffalo Minessota is a playful and hypnotic cross between conceptual art and references to Wawelenhg by Michel Snow. The Cooperativa de Cinema Alternatiu shows one of its monthly newsreels of which it was only possible to produce three editions, each of which dealt with a single issue. Finally, there is the apparently humble Resumen de noticias (News Headlines), in reality an exceptional document about the bloody Sanfermines (the Pamplona bull-running festival) of 1978 and the strategy of provocation, by those favouring a coup d’état, that fuelled the tension surrounding the event.

26th MAY (122 min.) El sopar, (Supper) Pere Portabella, 1974; Cada ver es, (Corpses) Ángel García del Val, 1981.

El sopar (The Supper) set out, in the form of ‘television counter-programming’, to establish a series of representative benchmarks, stipulations for an immediate political future that would meet the needs of democracy. On the other hand, Cada-ver-es (a play on words ‘Every-Look-Is’/’Corpses’) constitutes the most unassimilable cinema experience of this period, with its radical and eccentric nature in which terror, poetry and alienation are set alongside each other.

Night and Fog, or the Avant-Gardes in Search of the Dawn Round table chaired by Julio Pérez Perucha. Taking part will be film-makers Pere Portabella, Antoni Padros, Mariano Lisa (Colectivo Cine de Clase) and J. M. Martí Rom (Cooperativa de Cine Alternativo).

Participants, starting from the avant-garde territory that is rightly theirs, maintaining here the conventional distinction between the artistic and political vanguards, tend to slide towards the complementary territory. Thus, the hardened underground artist Antoni Padrós belongs not just to the artistic avant-garde. Similarly, Mariano Lisa of the Colectivo de Cine de Clase (Cinema of Class Collective) transcends the political avant-garde, as happens, though in a more cautious way, with the heterogeneous works of J.M. Martí Rom of the Cooperativa de Cinema Alternatiu, whilst Pere Portabella moves with unexpected aplomb within both fields.