Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catalan Cinemas to Close in Protest - of Catalan?

Various news sources have reported today that the majority of Cinemas in Catalonia will be closing on the 1st February in protest for a recently approved law regarding Catalan in cinemas. The date significantly coincides with the presnetation of the Gaudi Awards - the Acadamy Awards for Catalan Cinema.

Barcelona Sights - Cinema Seats

The law was passed on the 12th of this month, but today the announcement was made to the press of the protest and planned closure of the 74 cinemas offering over 528 screens, which is the majority of screens (total being 795 sreens in all Catalonia).

So what's all the fuss about, I hear you cry? It's not long ago that the Catalan Government ruffled a few feathers over its proposed plans to insist on an equal amount of Translated copies in Catalan and Spanish for films distributed throughout Catalonia. Well, a study released today by Josep Maria Gay, and using information of profits and benefits in Catalan Cinemas from 2001 to 2008 predicts that this new law will not only lessen the income of the cinema industry but even force the closure of many cinemas - hence the closure on the 1st February to symbolise the effect this new law may have.

Bill Murray in Lost in Translation - Barcelona Sights Blog

Last year, 97,1% of movies broadcast in Catalan Cinemas were doubled or subtitled in Spanish with only 2,9% in Catalan. It appears, however, that there may be good reason for this - that even the Catalans don't like going to see films dubbed or subtitled in Catalan. The study by Gay released today made a prediction that if the law may see the beginning of the end for many cinemas, as there is no demand. The new law obliges distributers to produce an equal amount of doubled/subtitled copies as original version copies, UNLESS there are to be less than 16 copies of European-produced movies over the whole of Catalonia. So that means if you have an American movie with less that 16 copies, half must be in Catalan.

It appears to be a solution to a problem which never existed. I know personally I have Catalan friends who have told me that they never watch DVDs or attend cinema screenings in Catalan - rather Spanish - and at the same time I remember fierce publicity a couple of years ago, demanding Harry Potter be dubbed in Catalan so that people (or maybe youngsters) could enjoy it in their native language and not have to read subtitles, or listen to Spanish.

There seems to be more confusing details in the mix, when we talk about recent movies such as Map of the sounds of Tokyo, Agora and Planet 51 which were all funded and made through Spain and Catalonia, but are shot entirely in English. What if there were to be less than 15 copies? Odd, right?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion on this one! As a foreigner, I can only comment on how I would feel watching a Catalan movie, dubbed in English, and I think I'd probably prefer to watch it subtitled. I've seen many films since I've been living here in various languages (German, Swedish, Polish, Russian) and have always watched in Version Original with subtitles in Spanish.

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Patrick said...

Your post about Catalan cinema is very interesting and open ended, good for debate. Just to set the record straight, I personally sympathise with Catalan sovereign movements and at Municipal level (I live in a small town outside Barcelona now) support local Republicans. I would like to emphasise “Municipal” level and not their participation in the Generalitat.

Having said this, let’s talk about language in cinema. As you probably already know, any, lets say Iberian legislator (we don’t want to specify area), loves to legislate, what happens to the law afterwards is not his problem. He or as they say nowadays , He/She, moves on to something else and leaves the mess to others. The problem is that others don’t want to be caught in the mess left behind.

Back in the ‘80s, Jordi Sole Tura, one of the fathers of the Spanish Constitution, was Minister of Culture (with the Socialist of Felipe Gonzalez) in the central government, and he too wanted only to import into Spain quality films. We were all very high on culture back then, just out of Franco’s shadow. Years later he wrote a very interesting press article regarding an iniciative of the Catalan Conseller de Cultura in the 90s (who was trying to force by law Walt Disney to translate their films to Catalan-he even went to LA to talk about this). More or less during the same period, the Catalan Parliament promoted a Law requiring Hollywood to accept Catalan films within the category of foreign language films, forgetting that Hollywood invites foreign films for the Oscar sessions. It was all part of growing up.
Mr. Sole Tura recalled in his article that while he was Minister he received a visit of a delegation of members of what is called, The Majors. They told him flatly, he a Minister of a sovereign country, with King, flag, etc. ally of the US, that they (The Majors) will only supply Spain with Good, Mediocre, and Bad films. Either you took the whole lot or you wouldn’t get anything! Period. Take it or lump it! End of discussion. Mr. Sole Tura died recently and was mourned by the whole Catalan Society, regardless of political party.
By the way, this Conseller de Cultura of the Catalan Government was the same guy that said Catalan actresses should show more breast and glamour in public to incentivise the industry. They nearly mutilated him in public after that. We have all lost track of his professional life after that, probably working today in some governmental office related to ladies, but always on official payroll.

Let’s go back to language. Films here are dubbed since after Franco arrived in power (or took it). This was an easy censorship measure, disguised as the possibility of bringing culture to the masses. Mogambo, with Clark Gable and Grace Kelly are an easy example, they ended up beign brothers, which probably excited Ava Gardner more yet if possible!

What has maintained Catalan culture in one piece has been the language. Later the cultural events. Language was spoken at home, family life, kept alive. Grandmas were always interested in knowing if the new girl was Catalan or not.
And Legislators think that this is the solution.

But for a society (wether Catalan, Castellano Extremeño etc.) brought up with cinema, no TV, always dubbed in Spanish, who can listen to, lets say Clint Eastwood, if not dubbed by Constantino Romero in Spanish, and he is Catalan (recall the voice on off during opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 1992?). Did you know that the best dubbers in Spain are in Barcelona.

It’s a big industry here. That’s in danger also.

I’ ve extended myself too long on this,so to finish, I think its good to point out that many people here, Catalans, even well known dubbers, that the best is to leave any film as is and subtitle them. You ever asked yourselves why the Portuguese speak or understand better English than the rest of Iberians? They subtitle everything except their own production. Simple. And that goes for any language.

Hope I can find time to contact again!

Unknown said...

Wow Patrick, thanks for such a great comment and opening up the debate! There's some real insight from a qualified opinion there, and I appreciate the time in yu replying, I had no idea of the history behind some of the goings on this month (how could I?!).

Just today, I saw some of the cinemas in Barcelona had been vandalised with graffiti, and it made me wonder just how people were going to take it (this being aMonday and all, hardly a cinema day right? - a pesar de las Goya).

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