The brochure that a group of students created for the Carleton International Film Forum
On day 1, we began with introductions to familiarize ourselves with each other. To prepare for the workshop, we saw the documentary Alcaldessa about the experience of Ada Colau from being an activist to being the mayor of Barcelona. Also, we read articles on Colau and Faus and their influences on PAH activism. His works, both in the forms of books and documentaries, focus primarily on the representation of individuals and places abandoned by our capitalist and urban societies. His works encourage the spectator to take a moment, reflect, and analyze from a different perspective the presence of movements and places that one would have otherwise only seen in passing.
Specifically, we focused on the Retired City, created in 2008. The Retired City is described by Faus as “an investigation on the self-constructed gardens around the rivers of Barcelona. The work was formalized with a publication ‘La Ciudad Jubilada (The Retired City). Brief Dictionary on the informal gardens of the rivers of Barcelona’ and also with a video documentary. Beyond the particularities of this specific case study (and its particular context in the Barcelona surrounding areas), what was relevant in this research was to reflect on the always complex coexistence between formal and informal ways of urbanity. The gardens allowed us to approach one of the many autonomous and ‘disobedient’ practices that continuously shape the contemporary city. Practices that, far from being simply incidental, can give us many clues about what is really going on behind the supposed urban order.” In class, we focused on the garden that aligns the highway and the issues of cleanliness if it occupies this location. We thought of similar examples in American cities.
In preparation for his screening of Sí Se Puede: Seven Days at PAH Barcelona, we talked about the #BlackstoneEvicts campaign. The video is a powerful representation of PAH members addressing the big investment firm, Blackstone. They claim that they will defend their rights and their homes and do everything to ensure that Blackstone does not affect them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPGGJpOiseI).
In the evening, we say Sí Se Puede: Siete días en PAH Barcelona. The documentary, SÍ SE PUEDE: Seven days at PAH Barcelona, is an account of the day to day of Barcelona‘s Platform for People Affected by Mortgages. Following various participants, it illustrates what a usual week looks like and its tireless activities. This documentary places cameras at the heart of the PAH to visualize, not only the post-housing bubble drama, but also the huge and often invisible work behind this social movement. It shows the process of transformation and empowerment of those who join its ranks.
After the screening, the session was opened for questions. The majority of the audience was curious about the condition in Spain today. Faus responded that at the time, it was a problem that captivated the entire country but now it is less of a concern. In addition, there was a question about the law and whether it has already changed or will change. There are talks about changing the law so that evicted people would not be in debt to the bank for all their lives.
The documentary clearly shows a sad reality in Spain but what is deep is the community that formed the PAH. It is an incredible example of the quality of human nature and how we gather under the right to have a home.
On the second day of the workshop, Pau began the class with a space in which the students could ask their questions about the two documentaries we saw (YES YOU CAN: Seven days in PAH and Alcaldessa) as well as the first day of class. He spoke of his unique access and specific role in exhibiting the image of Ada Colau and valuing her through a cinematic image. We also disscuessed the deliberation on the image of Ada Colau as a leader and the dilemma of needing a person to be the symbol for the PAH while maintaining collective power. Then we talked about the predominantly classist and sexist criticism of Ada Colau as mayor as well as her label of an “outsider” in the political world. Pau also discussed his future projects through which he would like to work on other documentaries following people similar to Ada Colau.
After Pau answered our questions, we went on to talk about the two documentaries. Pau described his process of filming both, and his different approaches to the two films. He explained how he had his idea of following a normal week of the PAH before recording for SÍ SE PUEDE: Seven days in PAH Barcelona. He then compared this with his way of recording Alcaldessa. He explained that the process of recording Alcaldessa was much different due to the uncertainty of the outcome of the campaign and therefore felt more lost in the filming process, moving day by day without an exact plan. He also described the importance of being away from his projects when he has an emotional relationship with the product because it is difficult to judge his own work.
We also talk about the lack of music in many documentaries. Usually the documentary does not use music to appear more neutral and more like real life. However, Pau talked about his personal use of music in his documentaries. He described that music could be used to create suspense or construct ideas that communicate that machinery is working or time is passing.
To close the class Pau commented on the negotiation between responsibility and creativity when making documentaries. When you record for a documentary you have so many hours of film but you can only use a fraction, so you have to negotiate what are the main aspects that are imperative to display your message. And with this he explained that he has to find a balance between his version of the subject he wants to show and the real version.
On the third, and last day of the workshop, Pau began by asking the students what they had learned in the workshop. Student responses to this question can be separated into two groups. First is the basic on what was learned to be able to truly deal with Pau’s work, ie all the information about the economic crisis in Spain, the evictions, and the work of PAH. The other kind of responses connected Pau’s work to the issues with which the class has been working, especially to the idea of expanding the vision imposed by the capitalist and technological epoch in which we live.
Many students commented on how the representation of the PAH in Yes can: Seven Days in PAH Barcelona inspires the viewer with the possibility that people can create a political movement as united, lively, and powerful as the PAH. Pau used this opportunity to differentiate between the representation of things in the cinema and the real. Mainly the way in which cinema creates an illusion that creates a clear, immediate, and causal connection between action and outcome. In the reality that led to the PAH first came the absolute frustration that is followed by a number of day-to-day frustrations. Hence the first case is to organize and inform yourself, a process that comes out very nice and fast in the movie but in real life this is a hard and lonely process where things have to be done well. Only after this can a large movement like the PAH appear that breaks the myth of the individual solution to a collective problem and correctly proposes a collective solution.
In the last part of the class, Pau challenged students to figure out how they would present the reality of Carleton College. The class was then divided into three groups that thought and drew pictures that could represent the reality of this university. At the end of the class each group presented their ideas to the whole class.