El cine de la Transición


Political and social transition from dictatorship to democracy (1965–1985) reflected in Berlin Arsenal’s film collection.

Of the 28 Spanish films in the Arsenal's film collection, 23 were made between 1965 and 1985. Years ago, I looked at these two decades, characterized by the political and societal transition from the late Franco era to democracy, and examined the question of how the commercialization of Spanish art in the 1960s and regime change triggered by the dictator's death in 1975, was reflected in the country's quotation art. Within the Living Archive context, my questions will focus on the cinema of these years, which is known as “Cine de Transición.”

In other curatorial contexts, the trash qualities of Spanish mainstream films and B movies of the 1960s and 70s have been highlighted: For example, in Berlin's Zeughauskino's season "The Celluloid Curtain – Europe’s Cold War" or in the "Blancanieves y los Siete Lobos" series on Spanish horror and exploitation cinema organized by the "Friends of weird films". By comparison, the focus of the Arsenal collection lay and lies on the political and "alternative" cinema of the Iberian Peninsula. Catalan underground cinema is represented by its main works (but unfortunately in most cases the quality  of the copy is very bad). In recent years, the "Cine Clandestino" made by Llorenç Soler, Helena Lumbreras, Mariano Lisa, Pere Portobella and others has been presented by Pragda in New York for example, and in 2010 it was shown in Berlin ("Clandestí. Invisible Catalan Cinema" at Babylon in Mitte and the "Gefährliches Kino" colloquium at the Deutsche Kinemathek).

My project centers on the post-Franco works of Antoni Padros, Basilio Martin Patino, Jaime Chávarri, Albert Boadella, Francesc Bellmunt, Jaime Camino, Ventura Pons, Iñaki Nuñez, Álvaro del Amo, Francesc Ribera and José Luis Guerín. These films found their way to the Berlin Film Festival’s International Forum of New Cinema and into the archive of the "Friends of the German Film Archive" from 1976 to 1985.

They give a sense of the social transformation that took place against a backdrop of newly-gained freedom of opinion and the abolition of censorship in 1977 on the one hand, and on the other of how the enormous need to examine 40 years of suffering found its way onto the screen. There are films, such as the essay GUERNICA ARDE and the documentaries LA VIEJA MEMORIA and EL CAUDILLO, which turn to the long overdue public examination of the events since the foundation of the republic in 1931 and settle scores with the lies and propaganda maintained by the regime for decades. There are films – fictional or documentary – in which the executions of opposition figures in the last years of the dictatorship are treated, such as LA TORNA and TOQUE DE QUEDA. Others make clear how a crusade ("Cruzada") was conducted in this reactionary, Catholic and Falangist country against homosexuality and transvestism. They also show that the long desired for point has finally come to follow up on the libertism of the 30s and the heritage of Federico Garcia Lorca. (OCANA, RETRAT INTERMITENT and A UN DIOS DESCONOCIDO)

But there is also a trend with the end of state repression that harbors a distrust of the political and shies away from contemporary history. Antoni Padros, the director of the 1976 anarchistic anti-Hollywood epic SHIRLEY TEMPLE STORY, is quoted as saying "that the most subversive thing one can do in cinema these days is make a completely romantic film." (Interview in: "El viejo topo", Madrid, January 1978) DOS by Álvaro del Amo and LOS MOTIVOS DE BERTA by José Luis Guerín belong to this trend.

In 2006, the historian Josefina Martínez published an article called "Tal Como Éramos. El cine de la Transición Política Española" in the magazine Historia Social (Nr. 54). Thus, she was not only quoting the Spanish distribution title of Sidney Pollack’s THE WAY WE WERE (1973) but also displaying her desire, as part of her reflection on film history, to find out more about herself and the rapid social transformations of the time. Analogously (and to mark a boundary), the title of my curatorial excursion into this era of Spanish cinema, in all its variety and multilingualism, could be "El cine de la Transición – tal como fue (re-)presentado en Berlín".

The objective of the project is a commentated film series that looks at the films of the underground and others made in the last decade of the Franco era and available in the archive, such as the Spanish (!) version of Helma Sanders-Brahms film essay THE INDUSTRIAL RESERVE ARMY. The idea is that the series will tour Germany’s communal cinemas as a film package in 2013.


Film series in June 2013

TOQUE DE QUEDA (Iñaki Nuñez, Spain 1978)
Iñaki Nuñez' feature TOQUE DE QUEDA deals with the deadly repression of the Franco dictatorship. Starting with the execution of members of the FRAP (Frente Revolucionario Antifascista y Patriota) in the summer of 1975, the film tells the story of Marta, mother and freedom fighter.

LA DIADA DE CATALUNYA (Series: Noticiari de Barcelona, part 7, Albert Abril, Jordi Cadena, Spain 1977)
The film shows footage of and commentaries on the demonstration which took place on Katalon National Holiday, September 11, 1977. The demonstration is know as "one of the largest manifestations in post-war Europe."

LA VIEJA MEMORIA (Jaime Camino, Spain 1978)
Jaime Camino conducted a number of interviews with historically siginificant people and combined them with contemporary documentary material. The result is an unbelievably vibrant and reliable picture of the political developement of Spain since 1931. How Camino crafted these interviews into open dialogues is stagering, fascinating and exemplary.

CINCUENTA Y DOS DOMINGOS (Llorenç Soler, Spain 1970)
A multi-layered and accusational milieu study about young workers from the south, who live in poor circumstances in the suburbs of Barcelona and spend their freetime learning th trade of matador.

OCAÑA, RETRAT INTERMITTENT (Ocaña, an intermittent portrait, Ventura Pons, Spain 1978)
The 'Ramblas' in Barcelona are homosexuals, transvestites, prostitutes, pimps and other marginalized people. Their hidden live is the sujet of this portrait of the painter José Pérez Ocaña.

A UN DIOS DESCONOCIDO (Jaime Chávarri, Spain 1978) is a film from the Spanish transition period (1975–1979) about a professional magician in Madrid. The protagonist is a lonely gay man who ponders his homosexuality and existence, as well as the memory of his childhood in Granada and of the mythic writer Federico Garciá Lorca. The film won the awards for best director and best actor at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE STORY (Antoni Padros, Spain 1976)
An almost four hour long underground marathon. A cheeky, musical fairytale about Spain’s recent history.

LIBERTAT D' ESPRESSIÓ (From the series: Noticiari de Barcelona, part 15, Antoni Ribas, Spain 1978)
The film shows the big wave of protests against the ban of LA TORNA, the arrest of, a.o., Albert Boadella and the strike of the Union of Film- and Theater Workers, the „Asamblea Permanente de los trabajadores del espectaculo" in Barcelona.

LA TORNA (Albert Boadella, Francesco Bellmunt, Spain 1978)
In September 1977 the renowned Catalan Theatertroupe 'Els Joglar' presented their new play, 'La Torna', an aggressive satire on the Spanish legal system. The play was banned in December of the same year, the members of the troupe were sentenced to two years in prison by a military court. Shortly before the actors went to jail, Catalan filmmakers were able to film the play in one single night.

CARNET DE IDENTIDAD (Llorenç Soler, Spain 1970)
A dissident experimental film edited in the style of the classical Avant-garde and Pop Art.

NO COMPTEU AMB ELS DITS (Don't count on the fingers, Pere Portabella, Spain 1967)
The first film directed by Avant-garde artist and filmproducer Pere Portabella. A man in front of the bathroom mirror, a blond woman with the word "Brrr!" written on her forehead, a suit on the run in the hallways of an industrial filling station.

Biography of Sabine Schöbel