JUAN SEBASTIÁN BOLLAÍN
LET’S BE REALISTIC – DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE
Tuesday June 1 | 7:00 pm | Filmoteca de Galicia | Get your free ticket here
We have decided to use one of the most famous mottos of May 68 (traditionally attributed to Herbert Marcuse, though it is actually a synthesis of several of the ideas he put forward, turned into a slogan) as a title for this section. But do not get us wrong: our point is not to connect Bollaín’s film legacy with the student protests and the workers’ struggle, but to bring to the front the outstanding wit and lucidity that underlie the wild utopias represented in his films. It takes a brave, revolutionary spirit to project the impossible in a world where reality has narrowed to the point it becomes asphyxiating. Just like when one first discovers Fourier or Morris (his titles How We Live and How We Might Live and Useful Work versus Useless Toil are particularly revealing in this light), Bollaín’s work makes you feel relieved –the relief of having found a reassuring clarity, the joy of being able to ascertain that someone who has been properly trained to do so (Bollaín is not only a filmmaker, but an urbanist and an architect) has made an effort to project cities that revolve around pleasure and the provocative art that stems from asking ourselves how we might live –the kind of art that lets our imagination run free.
Born in Madrid in 1945 and transplanted to Seville when he was 9 years old, Bollaín took his first steps as a self-taught filmmaker at the age of 14, when he was given an 8mm camera. As he himself recalls, he started “inventing cinema” in the very act of filming, which led him to create his own visual language and procedures. Since then, cinema has been a big part of his life, from his psychoanalytical fiction films and the documentaries he made in his youth to the fiction features he made for television. At the same time, he developed a career as an architect and urbanist. Bollaín is a prolific author, whose work we wish to honor here with a selection of his films. We have curated a program featuring a series of films that he made in the 70s, and which represent a milestone in the history of Spanish cinema. In them, Bollaín’s eagerness to experiment comes together with his unique sense of humor and his unparalleled creative vision.
The first program we’re devoting to Bollaín’s work includes two commissions that were made to him by the associations of architects of Seville and Cádiz. The first one, La Alameda ’78 is a film that was intended to record the configuration and idiosyncrasy of the eponymous Sevillian neighborhood, which was back then threatened by an aggressive urbanistic plan that –if it would have been successful– would have ended up with the eviction of its inhabitants, leaving the area unrecognizable for good. With a creative editing that departs from the usual sound/image relationship in film, Bollaín presents the accounts of the neighbors, who speak about community and marginality in the area –a place that had been known for hosting flamenco parties in the past, and which had become a red-light district and a home to the lower classes. But La Alameda ’78 goes beyond mere documentation: the film lets us see the process of its very making and successfully integrates allegorical resources in the way it depicts a model of the neighborhood –a model that, at the beginning of the film, is sold to the highest bidder in a flea market (as was expected to happen with the real neighborhood) and is then subjected to adverse conditions that generate striking images. The second film of this program, C.A. 79. Un enigma del futuro is also the result of a commission, this time related with an urbanistic expansion in the city of Cádiz (which isn’t an easy task –the city is located on an isthmus) that did not happen in the end. The tools that Bollaín chooses for this film are quite different from the strategies put into practice in La Alameda. Instead of focusing on the past or the present, he puts together a science fiction film where the discussed matter is approached from the perspective of a fictional future (the year 4000), when a group of archeologists discover what for them are a bunch of enigmatic remains of a mysterious ancient city. This allows Bollaín to delve into contemporary matters in a creative, open-minded way.
The second session is an invitation to approach Bollaín’s famous tetralogy Soñar con Sevilla (Sevilla tuvo que ser, Sevilla en tres niveles, Sevilla rota, and La ciudad es el recuerdo): four films shot in super 8 that are the result of a research project that funded with a scholarship granted to the author by the Spanish foundation Fundación Juan March. This research project also led to a published work, El cine y el hecho urbano. Soñar con Sevilla offers a compilation of inventive images that portray a utopian Seville through performative actions, creative collages, and special effects. Seville is a city where tradition plays a major role, and whose urban landscape goes back many centuries. In this light, Bollaín’s visions are doubly iconoclastic: his films called for hedonism and citizen participation, and ridiculed the dictations of capitalism and conservative doctrines. This program is completed by two pieces that account for Bollaín’s experimental, inventive spirit: a selection of excerpts from Seguimiento del rostro de Felipe, a unique record of his first son throughout his childhood and teenage years, and several pieces from his activity at the Sección de Cine Experimental de Arquitectura (association for experimental cinema on architecture) that he co-founded with Jaime López de Asiain –and also directed between 1967 and 1971– at Seville’s school of architecture. The purpose of this initiative was to make the most of the expressive tools of cinema in order to cast –and capture– a critical glance on architecture through both the study of historical buildings and modern housing units.
LA ALAMEDA’78 | Juan Sebastián Bollaín, Spain, 1978, 16mm to video, 40 min.
“There was a debate about what could be done about La Alameda, because, at the time, the City Council was trying to put forward a project whose purpose was to demolish the preexisting architecture and build housing blocks, and the association of architects was against this. The architects had an opinion, the City Council had a different opinion… and the neighbors had their opinion, too. I tried to make a debate-film that brought together many images and many opinions of different people. I also wanted to make it into a show, I wanted the result to be attractive, to entertain people. I wanted to move the viewers, to make them think and encourage them to approach the subject with a critical eye. To me, that’s what makes the essence of a film.” (Juan Sebastián Bollaín)
C.A. 79. UN ENIGMA DE FUTURO | Juan Sebastián Bollaín, Spain, 1979, 16mm, 30 min.
It’s the year 4000, and Cádiz is long gone. A group of archeologists are working on a site by the sea, near the area where the ancient city of Cádiz once stood. One day, while doing their routine chores at the laboratory, the two protagonists find several references to something called Cádiz 3. They decide to engage in an intense research with the aim to discover what could have caused the destruction of Cádiz, and finally solve the enigma. This leads to several encounters with 1979’s Cádiz, the lifestyle of its inhabitants, and their daily struggles. The film delves into the opinion of a number of relevant people and politicians of the city thanks to video interviews across the centuries.