This is how amateur cinema was a hundred years ago

This is how amateur cinema was a hundred years ago

Free, creative and mostly in Catalan. This was the amateur cinema of the 1920s and 1930s in Catalonia, and the gateway and nerve center of this film school in Spain. A European-oriented bourgeoisie with cultural interests was key to the emergence of non-professional photography from the moment Pathé-Baby cameras began to arrive, shooting 9.5 million meters of film, during the Christmas campaign of 1923-1924. This is how a family from Barcelona, ​​on February 27, 2024, filmed what is considered the first film in the history of Catalan amateur cinema and the state in the absence of any other preserved and documented footage that could refute it.

This is the starting point for the centenary of amateur cinema that Filmoteca de Catalunya has been celebrating since last March. “In a country that did not have a very developed film industry, but on the other hand had a strong bourgeois class and was very attracted to Parisian influences, when this wonderful device capable of recording images arrived… [la càmera Pathé-Baby]Many families take advantage of their trips to Paris to acquire them and begin recording domestic life, social life and landscapes. “They even dare to make films like the ones they saw in the cinema,” explained Filmotica director Esteve Rimbau, presenting the centenary programme.

The reason behind the creation of the large amateur fund of Filmoteca de Catalunya

Several circumstances indicate that the Filmoteca de Catalunya is particularly full of amateur cinema, according to Mariona Brozo, head of the foundation's Conservation Centre. In the beginning, l The influence of historian, cultural and political activist Mikkel Porter Moix, head of the state cinematography service from 1977 to 1986 and promoter of the creation of Filmoteka, was born in 1981 from scratch. For Porter Moix, “amateur cinema represents a guarantee of the continuity of the idea of ​​future Catalan cinema,” as he stated in the book. History of Catalan cinemapublished by Taber Publishing House in 1969. This point of view, the truth about the history of Catalan cinema before the Franco regime and the truth about it The first archivist was Anton Jimenez, son of one of the pioneers of that movement, Dominique Jimenez Botti., were the decisive factors in Filmoteca's commitment to amateur films. According to Brozo's calculations, about 20,000 documents in the fund are of this type.

The golden phase of Catalan amateur cinema, from 1924 to 1940

The phase in which amateur films are most clearly defined – starting in the 1960s, for example, the 16mm format became semi-professional – is precisely the first phase, from 1924 to 1940, although since the outbreak of the Civil War it has been There are a few productions. . For this centenary main exhibition, outside the house. Amateur cinema in Catalonia 1924-1940…focuses on this periodAlthough the ellipses in the title are “explicitly placed, they are not an error,” Enrique Vibla, curator of the centenary with Ignasi Renaud, is careful to make clear that the story continues and that one day the exhibition may have a second chance. part .

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A website where you can watch more than a hundred amateur movies

One of the most prominent activities of the celebration, in addition to exhibitions and film series that can be watched throughout the year, is Web Any movie buffs, where you can find, with free access, original gems. In addition to all the content and information related to screenings, sessions and other events, on this portal there are 118 films digitized and/or restored by the Film Library’s Conservation and Restoration Center, divided into three categories: fiction, documentary and avant-garde. This is where you can check how to do it Catalan was the language of most productions. It was a silent cinema, but in Catalan: Titles, credits and captions or with portions of dialogue, interspersed to facilitate understanding of the work, were in the language of the country. This is not the case for the first film, the first film of its kind Nevada From 1924whose title – which is the only text it contains – is in Spanish. But almost all other products are in Catalan. The oldest is Bad jokefrom 1926, a “comedy in one act” with two characters: “Sigismun, the grasshopper with pants” and “Annaclet, who always has one of his famous (famously heavy) jokes.”

Catalan-speaking Francoists

The use of the Catalan language reaches unexpected extremes with When appetite decreases, From 1939. Film made From the perspective of the victors It explains the ups and downs of a family affiliated with the Nationalist side during the war, with the difficulties of finding groceries in a market in Barcelona that is seriously in short supply. It reflects his anger at the “Red Dominion” and his joy at the entry of Franco's forces into Catalonia. Even the followers of the regime that was about to exclude Catalan from public life used it naturally in that golden age of amateur cinema that was about to end.

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Much more than home recordings

One of the goals of the centenary celebration is to discover heritage unknown to the general public Demanding the artistic value of amateur cinema, which goes beyond home recordings Of birthday celebrations and holiday moments. As proof of the validity of this thesis, those responsible for the procedures wanted to head one of the sections of the site, which includes Filmographywith a verbatim quote from the most prestigious magazine of the time Popular movieWhich stated in the August 1935 issue that “Amateur cinema is the only film school in Spain.” “They were referring to the amateur cinema that was produced in Catalonia, because just before the war there had been some small attempts in Madrid and Murcia, but above all the nerve center of this cinema was Catalonia.”confirms Vibla.

Exhibition “Out of Home”. Amateur cinema in Catalonia 1924 – 1940…', at Filmoteca de Catalunya, as part of the activities celebrating the centenary of amateur cinema

Enrique Vibla, a UAB researcher expert in cultural manifestations of the 1930s, and Ignasi Reno, a documentary filmmaker at the Center for Conservation and Restoration of the Film Library, emphasize the statement of intent contained in the title they have chosen for the main exhibition of the Film Library. Centennial: outside the house. “We wanted to separate the idea of ​​amateur cinema from the concept of home cinema. There is a certain tendency to associate non-professional cinema with home recordings. Pictures of holidays, of children, of people smiling shyly at the camera, even covering it with their hands. It was there, but then A cinematic movement is born, which is considered, according to interpretive discourse, one of the most important cinematic movements of the 1930s. A key to understanding the survival of film culture in the country and also to understanding the beginnings of the first documentary, experimental and imaginative cinema,” the UAB professor emphasized in the presentation.

Without having to compare amateur productions with professional ones, Fibla and Renau claim “the free and creative spirit they display.” “They show things that professional cinema, little of which was produced in Catalonia in the 1930s, did not show. Amateur cameras, thanks to their mobility and ease of use, reached places that professional cinema could not. These films tell us about the other 1930s,” emphasizes Vibla.

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From Igualada to Japan: The International Dimension

In the same way that photography was not limited to the domestic sphere, once the films of this movement appeared it also moved outside the home. “They have been seen in cinemas, in cultural associations, in hiking centers and all kinds of organizations that have a cinema section, There was a will to carry out education or awareness. The films moved from Igualada to Sabadell, and from one city to another, being exchanged and participating in competitions organized by the Catalunya Excursion Center, the CEC, and the Promotion of Decorative Arts. “Those who won went on to international competitions,” explains Ignacy Renaud. there was Award-winning works at the Venice Biennale And in the Fourth International Amateur Cinema Competition, which was held in Barcelona in 1935. In one case Suicide?Do I want to die?In Esperanto, it reached Japan.

Delmiro Caralt and Pilar de Cuadras

They deserve a separate chapter Delmiro Carralt and Pilar de Cuadras, marriage and two of the most important names in amateur cinema before the Civil War -Then they stopped filming- with Dominique Jimenez Botti and Eusebe Ferrer Borel. Caralt is the author of the book Suicide?, one of the most famous films of the time. It won the CEC Extraordinary Prize in the Catalan Amateur Film Competition in 1935 and was one of the films participating in the V International Amateur Film Competition in Berlin in 1936. In 1938, it brought an association of Japanese filmmakers to his country, and it was also seen in Hungary, England and the United States. .

Pilar de Quadras and Delmiro de Caralt, pioneers of amateur cinema in Catalonia, organized by Filmoteca de Catalunya / Quadras Family Archive
Pilar de Quadras and Delmiro de Caralt, pioneers of amateur cinema in Catalonia, organized by Filmoteca de Catalunya / Quadras Family Archive

Carralt and Cuadras produced other popular and award-winning films, and he was one of the founders of the CEC's Cinema Section in 1932, and the International Amateur Cinema Union (UNICA), of which he was also president. In addition, publications such as Movie buffs (1932-1935). But in the first place, The couple created a film library which they started in 1924Purchasing books to document his cinematic works. This fund, which contained 19,000 books when it was acquired by the state, also contains 1,000 specialized magazines and a large amount of posters and manual programs. Extremely valuable material for historians and used by curators of amateur cinema.

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