"Editing Neighborhoods: the Politics of Urban Transformation in Recent Iberian Documentary Films"
Cinema Studies Colloquium
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 12:00pm
330 Fisher-Bennett Hall
University of Pennsylvania
In the context of the latest developments of the Spanish May 15th movement, the social space of the neighborhood has suddenly regained importance. When “tent cities” in the main squares became unsustainable, the collective intelligence of the “indignados” crystallized in a clear message: let’s move to the neighborhoods. This movement echoes a long Spanish tradition of imagining the urban neighborhood as a space for political resistance, a tradition in which documentary film has had an important role. During the last decade, many documentary filmmakers have returned to the neighborhood to tell stories of urban transformation, in each case with a different vision of the political dimension of these changes. In this presentation, I will compare two divergent accounts of the “gentrification” of the so-called “Chinese neighborhood” in Barcelona. I will show how En construcción (José Luis Guerín, 2001) suggests that urban transformation can disclose accumulated layers of human experience, while De Nens (Joaquim Jordà, 2003) presents urban change as a surface phenomenon that cloaks an intricate web of manipulations and interests. These two cinematic approaches, which will be compared with those of other documentary films, establish radically different narratives for the political imaginary of the Spanish neighborhood. Parsing out these narratives is particularly important at a moment in which the space of the urban neighborhood has been revitalized by the May 15th movement.