Located in the north-east of Spain, Catalonia is a region with a long history of tense relationships with the central authorities of Madrid. Today, the independence movement is alive as ever while many of the regions are still grappling with the effects of the recent economic crisis. Here are some of the most insightful documentaries into the current political state of Catalonia.
Spain’s Secret Conflict (2009)
This English-language documentary, released in 2009, begins with a sequence shot during the independence referendum, which was organised in parts of Catalonia that year – and denounced as illegal by the government in Madrid. Even if the conflict is not so secret today, this documentary offers valuable insight into the mindset of the pro-independence movement as well as the historical background to the political crisis.
In 1910, The Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores (CNT), founded in Barcelona as the first anarchist union and worker’s party in Spain, helped establish the status of anarchism in Spanish politics. Today, anarchist collectives continue to play an influential role in the political landscape of Catalonia, most visible during events such as the 15-M protests and the general strikes of which this documentary investigates.
When it first came out ‘Disidentes’ wasn’t broadcast anywhere on television in Catalonia. The reason: it looks at the uncomfortable situation of those living in Catalonia but goes against the independence and Catalan nationalist movements. For example, it shows a woman who campaigned so that her children could receive at least 25% of their classes in Castellano, not Catalan, and journalists and civil servants who have felt the pressure of being on the ‘wrong’ side of the debate.
Meaning ‘The Next Day’ in Catalan, this documentary film was released in 2014 at a time when many Catalans were preparing to take part in an independence referendum to decide the fate of the region. Directed by Isona Passola, L’Endemà sets out to provide clear, balanced arguments of what is at stake in this debate. While the central government never acknowledged the referendum, the question remains as pertinent today as it was then.
Putting to one side the current political situation, Catalunya-Espanya focuses on the economic, philosophical and historical relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. In doing so, it inevitably sheds light on the context for the political arguments of those on both sides of the independence debate. The documentary, which features interviews with historians, sociologists, economists and other contemporary Spanish thinkers, offers critical insight into a complex geopolitical situation.
Cataluña. A region apart (1979)
Released by the BBC in 1979, Cataluña. A region apart is in many ways still as relevant today as it was back then. The documentary, forgotten for decades after its broadcast, gained renewed interest after it was digitised and made available online in the mid-2000s. Filmed just fours years after Franco’s death, the documentary looks back at the history of the Catalan people and the region’s troubled relationship with the rest of Spain.
Bye-Bye Barcelona (2014)
The city of Barcelona is home to around 1.6 million residents, yet this year, it is expected to receive over 30 million tourists. The Catalan capital’s popularity has given rise to tensions as locals complain of rising rent prices, the transformation of the city centre and the deterioration of the social fabric of some neighbourhoods. Bye-Bye Barcelona is an eye-opening documentary that explains the negative consequences of the booming tourist industry in Barcelona.