From the Archive
Another Way of Exerting Censorship: The (Institutional) Limits of Creative Freedom
Sonia García López (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)
In this section, we broaden our approach to concept of censorship within this dossier in order to reflect upon the informal, concealed or blurry practices through which audiovisual and cinematic creativity is limited, for a variety of moral, ideological and political reasons. Specifically, we are approaching how artistic creativity is, at times, quartered in films commissioned by public or private entities, or those designed for their circulation within institutional contexts. For this purpose, we are analyzing Sevilla 2030 (2003), made by architect and experimental filmmaker Juan Sebastián Bollaín, a work that was commissioned by the Gerencia Municipal de Urbanismo de Sevilla and the Oficina del Plan de Sevilla, and was never officially released due to the restrictions that these very institutions exercised over it.
The File Room, an artistic project started by Antoni Muntadas in 1994, is a space of reflection and activism on diverse forms of censorship throughout history, from antiquity to our days. The website, managed by the National Coalition Against Censorship (New York, USA) since 2001 contains a database that allows searches using different criteria: date, place, reasons and means through which censorship was applied in a variety of time periods. The File Room, a pioneering project of cyber activism, came into existence after Muntadas’ work, TVE: primer intento (1989) –commissioned by Televisión Española (TVE)– was rejected for broadcast in the cultural program Metrópolis, without any kind of explanation.
Within the context of the limits of creation, it is also worth mentioning Gabinete de crisis, a program made by Arturo Bastón, Kikol Grau and Félix Pérez-Hita for the local television channel Barcelona Televisió (BTV). Manuel Huerga, director of the channel between 1997 and 2003, pushed for a model of creative and innovative television that had achieved international impact, fostering shows that are today considered cult artifacts such as Boing Boing Budda, directed by Huerga himself and Andrés Hispano. However, after the pilot of Gabinete de crisis was censored several times, its creators started distributing it in alternative spaces under the title Gabinete de crisis. Un programa de televisión que no verá en televisión / Gabinete de crisis. A television show that will not be watched on television.
Sevilla 2030 (Juan Sebastián Bollaín, 2003)
Around the same years in which Bastón, Grau and Pérez-Hita were hitting a wall, the Sevillian filmmaker was commissioned Sevilla 2030 by the Gerencia Municipal de Urbanismo of Sevilla in order to promote the 2003 Plan General. Before that, Bollaín had already produced interesting works in the fields of documentary and experimental cinema, such as La Alameda (1978), a medium length film produced by the Seville College of Architects and conceived as an invitation for neighbors, associations, political parties, experts etc. to discuss the future of this part of the Andalusian city. According to the film’s description in PLAT.tv, the film offers “a great variety of conversations with popular interlocutors, through a noticeable experimentation with the relationship between sound and image, making the film a hasty spectacle, which is far from being a dogmatic lesson on urbanism”. Upon the making of La Alameda, the city of Seville became Bollaín’s cinematic focus, experimenting with genres, languages and formats in a variety of essay films, almost always parodic, tackling Seville’s urban idiosyncrasies. Sevilla 2030 is directly related to C.A.7.9. Un enigma del futuro (1979) –in this case, with Cadis as a protagonist– and the tetralogy Soñar con Sevilla, made in 1979 using Super 8: in Sevilla tuvo que ser, Sevilla rota, Sevilla en tres niveles, Bollaín deploys the codes of fake documentaries, adding a futuristic approach, to offer a critical take on a city undergoing significant transformations during the dictatorship.
Thirty years later, establishing a continuity within the above-mentioned works, Sevilla 2030 appropriates the representational codes of those information discourses that usually function as veracity and objectivity markers in order to weave a futurist-documentary fantasy in which the director places spectators in “a planet falling apart since humans have been unable to solve several long-existing, serious, problems. Only a city—Seville—has been able overcome this challenge, turning into a model to imitate for the remaining urban centers still existing on Earth. From an in-orbit studio, inside a Ugandan artificial satellite, two black presenters host a hallucinating reportage on Seville, while, in the background, through large windows, we see the blue planet’s rattles. Bollaín’s post apocalyptic Seville shows “the wonderful results of the wise decisions that were carried out by local politicians in 2003, following the dictates of the Plan General”. The voice of actor Juan Diego gives a poetic and meditative dimension to the film. At the same time, it acquires an enormously critical potential through its articulation as well as through the use of music in juxtaposition with diverse fragments of television programs, interviews etc., questioning the idyllic tone of the documentary. Bollaín tells us that the script was approved by the urbanism delegate of the Seville city council, and there were preparations to project the film on a gigantic screen attached to the town hall’s building, in Plaza de San Francisco. Nevertheless, a few days before the opening, the council member, after watching the final version of the film, decided “to place it inside a drawer with seven locks”, and stopped the construction of the big screen. The film was subsequently projected in a small office, just for the press, with no publicity. This is the only circulation the film had until the Plataforma de Difusión e Investigación Audiovisual, PLAT.tv, decided to include Juan Sebastian Bollaín’s works, as part of its online archive.
We would like to thank Juan Sebastián Bollaín for allowing us to showcase Sevilla 2030 in this journal and Víctor Berlín, PLAT’s coordinator, for his help to carry out this initiative.
Sevilla 2030 (Juan Sebastián Bollaín, 2003)
- Documentary-Fiction Film. Format: Digital S, Betacam SP
- Production: Producciones Bayona, Gerencia Municipal de Urbanismo de Sevilla (GMU), Oficina del Plan de Sevilla (OPS)
- Production Management: María Zambrano
- Script: Juan Sebastián Bollaín con la colaboración de Isabel Rus
- Voice: Juan Diego