Writing about Catalan cinema, for a new media of such a big, fascinating and culturally complex country as India is, and with no other indications from who invited me to do so than total freedom to write whatever I want and with as many words as I want, is a real pleasure, but a difficult challenge too. 

I wish this collaboration will suit with what I was expected to write, and that, in future occasions, I’ll be allowed to develop some aspects on Catalan cinema which I feel comfortable to aboard, or which I think I have enough knowledge to be able to write about with some dignity.

Meanwhile, I am not certain if writing for a very specialized, erudite or academic public, or for a divulgative magazine, anyway, I’ll try to contextualize Catalan cinema from a historic and cultural point of view, and offer a few hints which should help to understand its magnitude and present situation. 

From a historical perspective, two considerations greatly condition the existence of our cinematography. The first one is that, in the very moment of cinema’s birth –and considering the situation, all over the its first centenary —, Catalonia has got its own language and culture, but it hasn’t got the privileges of being a State such as full capability of creation, organization, structures edification, cultural or industrial strategic politics elaboration, etc. Catalan cinema has grown parallel to the Spanish one and always under its tutelage. In the other side, because of being the most industrialized Spanish region at the end of the 19th century and, maybe also because of being frontier zone with France, the first years of cinema in Catalonia where, probably, more vigorous than in the rest of the Country.

From a cultural point of view, Catalan cinema, just the same as Catalan literature and other artistic creation ambits, is the object of a permanent debate: is Catalan cinema all cinema made in Catalonia or only the Catalan spoken one? A Catalan person living in Madrid who makes Spanish spoken films is making Catalan cinema? The controversy, which, from the outside may seem absurd –or even ridiculous—, is still alive nowadays, and in the cinema case, it is still more complicated due to the debate on the origin of the productions: a film directed by a non Catalan director, filmed out of Catalonia but produced by a Catalan enterprise is a Catalan one or it is not? The discussion, which seems to have no end, reflects the non solved situation between the different Spanish cultures and the insecurity they suffer when trying to aboard their cultural realities.

Anyway, and ignoring identity debates, Catalan cinema enjoys a good health, or, at least, as professionals and enthusiasts claim joking, a bomb-proof bad health. From a quantitative point of view Catalonia’s number of films is comparable to other mid European countries, and superior than, just for giving an example, Portugal number of productions. About twenty long-record films have their premiere every year, not to speak of the hundreds of short-record films, tenths of TV series and movies and a good number of infantile audiovisual animations in large and short formats. These are modest numbers, compared to the enormity of the productions made in India or the USA, but perfectly comparable and even a little bit more positive, proportionally, to the numbers of other countries of a similar extension and number of inhabitants. 

From the qualitative point of view, some Catalan authors and films have stood out lately in international prestigious festivals: Marc Recha was awarded in the Lorcano’s festival for “L’arbre de les cireres (The cherry’s tree)”, Agustí Villarroga in Berlin’s festival –where the most prolific of the Catalan authors, Ventura Pons, presents a new film almost every year—for “El mar (The sea)”, or José Luis Guerín, in San Sebastian’s festival, awarded for the documental “En construcció (In construction)”. Other Catalan films have also been awarded in other festivals all around the world.

Maybe it’s just in this aspect, the documental in which Catalan cinema seems to be more inspired. Besides the above commented “En construcció (In construction)”, films like “Els nens de Rússia (The Russian children)”, of Jaime Camino, “Balseros (Cuban Rafters)”, of Carles Bosch and Josep Maria Domènech, which postulated itself in the Oscar as best documentaries, “La mort de ningú (Nobody’s death)”, of Joan Dolç, “Mones com la Becky (Monkeys like Becky)”, of Joaquim Jordà, “La casita blanca (The little white house)”, of Carles Balagué and a large etcetera, usually low-cost creations (almost always insufficiently promoted but that give an indubitable prestige to Catalan cinema) have obtained a reasonable international eco and some audience success.

Finally, and to end with this quick first view on Catalan cinema, it would be necessary to refer to some other subjects closely related: about thirty little and middle festivals –in addition to the Sitges one, main event of the year- are celebrated regularly; new audiovisual learning centres, at university level or practical professional education level appear all over Catalonia; the Catalan cinema-club movement enjoys an expansion and consolidation moment; the number of commercial cinema exhibitions, despite the present crisis, is still the higher in Spain, and lots of products, specially TV movies, but also large-format productions, are finding their place in the market. Resuming, Catalan cinema, cinema in Catalonia, the relations between cinema, population, culture and industry, keep demonstrating a good vitality, which needs to be preserved, stimulated and multiplied.

Marti Porter

President of Film Club La Garriga (Catalonia, Spain), 1995-2003 and the President of Catalan Federation of Film Societies, 1997-2003. Representative of the Mediterranean group at the International Federation of Film Societies Executive Committee, IFFS / FICC,  2002-2005. Was the Director of the “Mostra de Cinema de la Garriga” film festival, 1996-2003. Acted as IFFS / FICC jury member at Locarno, Karlovy Vary, Tromso and Barcelona film festivals. Organizer of the international initiative “Els cinemes del sud” (The cinemas from the South), 2002-2005. Based in Madrid, Spain.