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Goya Awards: and the winner is… González-Sinde

The annual Spanish cinema awards offered up a surprise in Catalan drama Pa negre, but the real drama on the night was the ongoing dispute over whether the internet is to blame for the industry's problems.


The 25th Goya Awards ceremony was somewhat overshadowed by the continuing fallout from the very public spat between Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde and Alex de la Iglesia, the president of the Spanish film academy, over the government’s recently approved and controversial anti-piracy law.

Academy president Alex de la Iglesia at the Goya ceremony.

Protesters wearing V for Vendetta masks booed and threw eggs at government ministers and movie-world bigwigs as they arrived at the February 13 ceremony, reserving their cheers exclusively for De la Iglesia.

De la Iglesia, a filmmaker himself who has resigned from his post as president of the film academy in protest at what has become known as the “Sinde Law”, used the occasion to explain his decision at the awards ceremony in his farewell speech.

“The rules of the game have changed. The internet is not the future; it is the present. We have lost our audience: people do not go to the movies, instead they sit in front of computers. We should not be afraid of the internet. It will save cinema in the end,” he said.

“There is no future unless we change, unless we can come up with new ideas, new approaches to creativity, and in the process establishing a new market model that represents all those involved: artists, producers and distributors, cinemas, web pages, servers, and the public,” he added.

His words didn’t go down well with many in the audience. González-Sinde sat stony faced, while Health Minister Leire Pajín wore a disapproving, and highly unflattering, expression. Javier Bardem, who has also backed the new legislation, looked equally unimpressed.

De la Iglesia’s decision to distance himself from the government’s meddling in the cinema academy —González-Sinde is a former president, and her father was its founding president— is to be admired. It is clear that González-Sinde was appointed culture minister primarily in order to push through anti-piracy legislation, and it was assumed that she could count on the support of a film academy with long-standing ties to the Socialist Party.

And on the whole, the academy has rallied round the minister, with the honourable exception of De la Iglesia, who has refused to be railroaded. Alone among his colleagues, he seems to understand that internet is far from the Spanish movie industry’s biggest problem.

Let’s be clear about this: the Sinde Law is not aimed at protecting the intellectual property rights of Spanish artists. It is about protecting Hollywood and the big movie distributors.

The number of people going to the cinema in Europe is on the rise: the problem is that they overwhelmingly watch US movies. I recently tried to download half a dozen of the current UK and US box office hits, and then their Spanish equivalents from a well-known P2P site. All the US and UK movies were available in high quality, “for your consideration” format. None of the Spanish movies were, except for a couple of shaky, filmed-in-the cinema jobs. One has to wonder if this means that the Spanish film industry keeps a tighter lid on preview copies of films, or simply that nobody is that interested in pirating them?

Defending Spanish cinema’s big problem

It is clear that the real issue here is about who controls distribution, not who controls the internet. And it is becoming increasingly clear that González-Sinde and her colleagues in the Spanish Academy of Cinema are not interested in doing anything about improving access to Spanish cinema —through the internet or in movie houses— and instead are fighting a rearguard action on behalf of the very distributors and movie producers who are contributing to the collapse of the Spanish film industry.

It could also be that Spanish filmmakers are failing to connect with audiences; either way, aside from half-a-dozen or so, most of the films that won awards on Sunday night will never be seen, because the distributors are only interested in what they see as box office certainties. Ironically, the only place one might get to see them is online…

In movie terms, the big winner on Sunday night was Agustí Villaronga’s Catalan-language Pa negre (Black bread), a powerful family drama set just after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and which swept the board, taking nine prizes, among them Best Film and Best Director.

The two films tipped to take the top prizes, De la Iglesia’s The Last Circus and Iciar Bollaín’s Even the Rain had garnered 15 and 13 nominations respectively, but on the night took just two and three prizes each.

But the real winner on Sunday was González-Sinde, who, with De la Iglesia out of the way, can now look forward to the continued support of an academy that is more out of touch with reality than ever. Savouring her victory with a breakfast of schadenfreude the morning after the awards ceremony, the culture minister played down the spat with the filmmaker, saying: “My only regret is that Alex didn’t win more prizes… he was playing the double role of president and candidate, and that is always tough.” Shame she wasn’t in the running for worst actress.

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Published: Feb 15 2011
Category: Culture, Films
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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