Filming the Margins: Citizenship and Visuality in Catalonia


  • Antonio Monegal


Documentary film, Multilingualism, Cultural difference, Marginality, Political relevance of the arts, Social impact, Barcelona


Documentary films produced in Catalonia that represent multicultural and multilingual environments can function as tools of critical intervention, raising awareness, rescuing from oblivion and empowering communities by making visible the everyday circumstances, interactions and conflicts of anonymous citizens. The three examples selected for discussion, Óscar Perez’s El sastre (2007), Eva Vila’s Bajarí (2013) and Claudio Zulian’s A través del Carmel (2009), illustrate different forms of marginality in the social makeup of Barcelona by focusing on a Pakistani tailor who runs a little shop in the downtown district of the Raval, which has a large immigrant population, on the transmission of the musical legacy of the gypsy community as a form of preserving identity, and on the cultural heterogeneity of the working-class neighbourhood of Carmel criss-crossed by the camera in a single continuous take. The documentaries address the complexity of the cultural makeup of contemporary societies by portraying the inflections of difference along axes such as language, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, and musical idioms. The films reveal the heterogeneity often hidden under generalizing notions and hegemonic identities. The typical debate about Catalan versus Spanish is replaced by a more nuanced landscape in which the other languages of Catalonia are represented.