59th Anglo Catalan Society Conference

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For the 59th consecutive year, the Anglo Catalan Society has reunited Catalan studies scholars, artists and cultural figures through its annual international conference, celebrated during the weekend of November the 1st at the University of Manchester. This year’s multidisciplinary gathering, hosted by Catalan TV and cinema expert Adrià Castells, generated an animated and interesting debate about the current situation of Catalan cinema.

With the participation of Catalan acclaimed director Isona Passola, speaker at the conference’s annual Joan Gili lecture, the attendants were given an overall view of Catalan cinema’s current situation, after the country’s financial crisis gave a final blow with the most severe cuts observed in the last decades. These cuts however, according to Passola, have brought the documentary film to a “Golden Age”. Through the alternative funding opportunity represented by Crowd funding websites such as Verkami, many Catalan projects have come to life, reaching in some cases record numbers as L’endemà. Respostes per a decidir, a documentary film produced by Passola which reached the astonishing figure of 348.830 euro, initially asking for 150.000 euro. Another example of a Catalan documentary succeeding through this crowdfunding platform is Manuel de Pedrolo, trencant l’oblit, a documentary on Pedrolo’s life and works being produced by Zeba produccions.

A clear example that confirms Catalan documentary film´s “Golden Age” was the screening of La Plaga, directed by Neus Ballús and produced by Pau Subirós. This delightful piece of art filmed in the outskirts of Barcelona, portraits the lives of different characters trying to subsist in the rural suburbs that still exist around the Catalan “ciutat comtal”. As they struggle through recession and the harshness of rural life, their story is shown through beautifully filmed scenes that capture the essence of every character and situation, blurring the line that separates a documentary from a film.

As a main characteristic in every conference organised by the Anglo-Catalan society, the quality of the papers offered by its participants makes the gathering an indispensable event for any scholar interested in Catalan studies. I find very difficult to pick from the several interesting contributions brought by the papers given in this conference, as its quality was undeniable; but I will give a short overview of the papers that for some reason caught my attention.

Guillem Colom’s paper on Quim Monzó was a thought-provoking one. His extensive analysis on pornography’s presence in the author’s fiction gives us a base from which to explore the various and complex gender implications of his work. Later on the conference we had the chance to see Stefanie Allum’s exploration on the way Catalan culture and identity are reflected in Catalan contemporary cinema. I found her thoughts on the use of symbolism through Catalan culture iconic figures such as such as les muntanyes de Montserrat particularly interesting. One interesting discovery I made was the existence of les mitgeres artístiques de Barcelona, through an interesting paper given by Anna Vives, in which she shown the underlying meaning behind some of this innovative emerging urban art works.

Besides, I learned more about Saïd El Kadaoui Moussaoui, a writer and psychologist based in Gavà, my hometown, after listening to Miquel Pomar’s study centered around his works on immigration. I was also impressed by the quality of Olga Sendra’s paper on Francisco Candel’s representation of the topography of Barcelona suburbs, which gave a unique insight into the different perspectives this landscape can be perceived from, depending on the observer status as immigrant or born Catalan. Rafael Jaime’s depiction of the Catalan exodus to France after Franco’s arrival at Barcelona was another of the highlights in this year’s conference. The showcase of his project based on capturing the testimonies and emotions of the displaced emigrants was both self-explanatory and moving.

Sergi Mainer’s talk on the different techniques employed by Catalan anarchist to spread their messages and cultural projects was also great food for thought. So was Helena Miguélez’s talk comparing the differences between Galician and Catalan masculinity represented through nationalist identity. And last but not least, Aina Monferrer closed the last panel session with her findings on the use of adjectives in Estellés poetry, after a corpus analysis that connected the different instances of use with cultural and stylistic patterns in his work.

The final session of the conference consisted in a beautiful reading of Montserrat Abelló and Maria-Mercè Marçal´s poetry, both in Catalan and English, as part of a reading in memory of Arthur Terry.

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