José Luis Castro de Paz: Historial Cinematographic Documents Made In Galicia

Jose Luis Castro de Paz -Doctor of History of Cinema, audiovisual communication professor and researcher – took part of the presentation round table of the section Historic archives of Galicia.


José Luis Castro de Paz

If the cinematographic production in Galicia, as everybody knows, was practically nonexistent until the seventies of the last century -drastically truncated the possible foundations of a Galician Cinema during the republican period by the military fascist uprising-, the expression turns out to be nearly literal until 1920.

So, and still including the nineteenth-century, relevant and possibly particular filmography of José Sellier Loup (native of Lyon, now settled down in A Coruña), it should not be surprising that what was filmed in Galicia until de end of the second decade of the 20th century hardly exceeds, as a whole, some thousand meters of celluloid -lost in its vast majority—and that its (non)-existence it is specially due to the individual willfulness of small businessmen or enterprising photographers rather than an industrial will worthy of such a name, since, in reality -and how it will be supposed- the extremely weak and apathetic Galician bourgeoisie will not show any interest in contributing in the uprising of a cinematographic industry. It is due to this fact that beyond the intrinsic value of the material conserved (and occasionally restored) by the Centro Galego de Artes da Imaxe (CGAI), and that it is an outstanding part of the section that we present, this material reaches for us the category of an authentic historical and anthropological treasure.

In this case, for instance, the film Año Santo en Santiago/Ano Santo em Compostela (1915), produced by Invicta Film from Oporto, screened by the Galician Isaac Fraga and filmed in July of that year by Manuel Cardoso Pereira with camera Pathé. Recovered in 2006 by CGAI and the Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema from the negative of the original camera, their images are the first ones in movement conserved from the city of Compostela, and its existence has being already documented by the historian Jose María Folgar, who actively collaborated in the restoration. Its content (coming out from the City Hall, giants and figures with huge heads, Platerías, processions and military parades) and effective but conventional formal resolution not only respond to the tradition of the technicians, but also to the commemorative will of its Galician “producer”, who therefore continued an open a religious path in our cinema from the end of nineteenth century.

And it is not minor the interest -as we have already brought forward, given the practically non-existence of a not even proto industrial production in our environment—of the two “pieces” of the twenties filmed by amateurs incorporated in (S8)’s section, and that they have turned out to be, along the years, into lasting fragments of historic times recovered for the Galician culture thanks to the labor of the Filmoteca. In the case of A Coruña años 20, it is about images of A Coruña and the surroundings (Pontedeume, Pastoriza, Oleiros…), filmed around 1929 by the amateur Ángel Durán Villarnovo with a 9,5 mm. The faces and kind of life (clothes, gestures and attitudes, public behaviour) of people from Coruña who enjoyed the traditional Batalla de Flores at los Cantones – and that the chance of the montage wanted to confront with the sore faces of the modest religious processions of the surrounding towns—were captured forever into images that, nowadays loaded involuntarily but unfailingly with an intimate funeral thickness, allow us, at the same time, to watch again buildings with unquestionable architectural importance currently disappeared, like the modernist “Linares Rivas” Theatre. On the other hand, Sociedad de Amigos del Campo (1924-1934), is a brief fragment with images, once again fragile and malformed, of Belelle (1930), As Pontes (1925), Buño (1925) y Barallobre (1934), taken during the (bourgeois) excursions organized by this association, founded by the veterinarian Juan Rozco Codina.

During the II República, a worried cinema, produced from and for Galicia, could only start breathing, drowned by the fascist arms. The brothers, Enrique y Ramón Barreiro, from the production company Folk (Pontevedra), upraise not only the first cinematographic newsreel of our country, but also filmed the pro-Galician, pro-statutory, decisive and unlikely lost film, Hacia una Galicia mejor/Por unha Galicia nova (Ramón Barreiro, 1933), of a striking political and cultural impact. We only conserve, as a sample of Folk’s laudable determination, the report that will be screened in this first edition of (S8) Peripheral Film Festival: El Recibimiento de Vigo a su Excelencia el Presidente de la República(1934, commissioned by the employer’s association of Vigo on the occasion of Niceto Alcalá Zamora’s visit). With a deep republican flavour in a moment of progressive and premonitory despair, the film starts with the entrance of the camera into Vigo’s bay on board of a fishing boat, consequently identifying the movie camera with the sector that basically maintained the economy of the city. After several general sights, the parade of the presidential committee around the city centre is filmed from high and oblique locations with respect to the street, thus allowing us to see the convoy —drawing a downward diagonal to the right— naturally inserted between the excited crowds from Vigo; and they talk about a (desired) tune between the people and their president.

The presence of eight unforgettable minutes of the Galicia of Carlos Velo, 1936, well, faces us with the only material conserved from a documentary of a deep Flahertyan inspiration, decided to register the maritime and rural Galicia of his troubled present and its systems and social processes. Closing of the republican trajectory of its author, with a singular anthropological and film value and turned by determined historiography into the text which could have opened the (impossible) path for a Galician cinema with its own identity, Carlos Velo’s images are linked at (S8) Peripheral Film Festival’ session with a vigorous and painful speech, with determined pieces of news and documentaries coming from the NO-DO, television news bulletin created by the Francoist Regime at the end of 1942.

Conserved a digital copy of the “Galician” images of NO-Do at CGAI since several months ago, these images are under a process of cataloging and documentation by a research team of the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, in collaboration with CGAI and la Filmoteca Española. Together with documentaries of striking formal treatment, the selected pieces of news allow us to think about, for instance and beyond its vacuous and from time to time, such particular propagandistic rhetoric, in aspects generally omitted but visible at the end of the shot and that offer us, if we know how to look at them, data of unquestionable value about the ways of living of several generations of Galician people arose during the Franquism. Well, it is about rigorously deepen into a fundamental plot of our historic and cultural patrimony, without obfuscation and absurd nostalgias.