The first edition of Barrios y Pueblos was born in 1977, with screenings in the towns of Andoain, Villabona, Pasaia (in the Trintxerpe and Pasai Antxo neighbourhoods), Hernani, Zarautz, Lasarte, Errenteria, Orio , Arrasate, Oñati, Legazpi as well as in different neighbourhoods and locations of Donostia (Ulia, Loiola, Añorga, the Photographic Society, the Teatro Príncipe and Intxaurrondo).
This Story focusses on the screenings programmed at the Don Bosco cinema, belonging to a Salesian parish church in Donostia's Intxaurrondo neighbourhood. In the early years of the Transition, the Don Bosco became one of the focal points and of greatest effervescence not only in relation to the Barrios and Pueblos section, but to the San Sebastián Festival as a whole. What happened in that cinema was no exception. Instead, it is a paradigmatic case for understanding the mechanism of the Barrios y Pueblos section and its core objectives: to bring the Festival to the people and, above all, to create a hitherto unseen space of contact between the cinema and the political and social movements of the day. At the same time, looking at other areas, examination of the films shown at the Don Bosco sheds light on those programmed and watched in the other sections on the Festival's "official" screens (Victoria Eugenia, Cine Savoy, Teatro Principal and Salón Miramar).
During the 1977 Festival five films were shown on the Don Bosco cinema screen as part of the Barrios y Pueblos programme. The programming of all of these films was notable as a political gesture: El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel,Luis Buñuel, 1962), which was taken from the season dedicated to the director at that year's edition; the Cuban film La última cena (The Last Supper,Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1976); L'assassinio di Federico Garcia Lorca (Alessandro Cane, 1976), belonging to the Otro Cine section and screened together with Lorca y la barraca (Miguel Alcobendas, 1977); and the films in the Informativa section, Mina, viento de libertad (Antxon Ezeiza, 1977) and Novecento (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1977). The screening of Novecento in Intxaurrondo is recalled as one of the edition's most highly attended showings. The participation in the post-film discussion of Laura Betti, its protagonist, and of Bertolucci himself, generated great expectation in the neighbourhood and was obvious proof that the Festival had spread beyond its usual venue and audience.
One of the main characteristics of the Barrios y Pueblos programme was the political intensity of the post-film discussions. For example, in 1977 the Festival magazine contained references to the discussion generated by screening of the Mexican-Cuban production Mina, viento de libertad at the parish church of Corazón de María, operations base of the Ulia Residents' Association, with the presence of its director, Antxon Eceiza. Eceiza's attendance of the Festival in 1977 represented the actor's first public social and political activity since his exile in Mexico.
In the framework of the project Zinemaldia 70: all possible stories (Z70) we have traced the footsteps of the screenings of Mina, viento de libertad to another showing in the Don Bosco, also attended by Eceiza. Specifically, the research team has located in the personal collection of the photographer Maite Berradre (one of the leading promoters of the Barrios y Pueblos Committee) a series of photographs enabling us to take an inside look at these sessions. The unseen images reveal the number and diversity of the spectators brought together by this programme and are, in turn, the only photographs located to date which show us the cinema in full swing.
The year 1978 saw the consolidation of the Barrios y Pueblos section which, according to the Festival report for that year, enjoyed an increase the number of screenings and spectators. Furthermore, its geographical radius of action was increased to add the neighbourhoods of Amara Berri, Amara Zaharra and Gros in San Sebastián as well as the towns of Antzuola, Azpeitia, Beasain, Burlada, Eibar, Elgoibar, Hondarribia, Irun, Lazkao, Tolosa, Bergara, Zubieta, Zumaraga and Zumaia.
One of the most noteworthy and innovative events of the 1978 Festival was the section entitled "Cinema by women". This season, promoted by the Donostia Woman's Assembly in collaboration with the Festival selection committee and organisations like Ciné-Femmes International, included the screening of fundamental works by contemporary directors. Seven films on this programme were taken to the different neighbourhoods and towns: The Double Day (Helena Soldberg-Ladd, 1975), Hra o jablko/The Apple Game (Věra Chytilová, 1976), Восхождение/Ascensión (Larisa Shepitko, 1976), Kilenc hónap háború/Nine Month War (Marta Mészaros, 1976), Irrintzi (Mirentxu Loyarte, 1976), La petición (Pilar Miró, 1976) and Vámonos, Bárbara (Cecilia Bartolomé, 1976). The Don Bosco cinema programme featured two of these films (La petición and Vámonos, Bárbara), although it also included titles directed by women not forming part of the season dedicated to them, such as the short film La última aventura de Rip Kirby (Leticia Alegre, 1976) and Zdjęcia Próbne/Screen Tests by Agnieszka Holland (co-directed with Pawel Kedzierski and Jerzy Domaradzki, 1977). The following year, despite the fact that said season wasn't repeated, the Woman's Assembly maintained its collaboration with the Festival through the Barrios y Pueblos programme. Thus, screens such as that of the Don Bosco cinema hosted debates with discussions on the situation of the woman from a feminist point of view based on films like A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavettes, 1974).
Another section worthy of mention in the 1978 Festival is "Films we haven't seen in recent decades", which turned the spotlight on the gaps in film history brought about by censorship under Franco. Several of the films programmed would arrive to Barrios y Pueblos, such as Tierra de España (Joris Ivens, 1937); Las Hurdes, tierra sin pan (Las Hurdes: Land without Bread, Luis Buñuel, 1933); Sbatti il mostro in prima página (Slap the Monster on Page One,Marco Bellocchio, 1972); Macbeth (Orson Welles, 1948); Мать(Mother, Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1926); ТрипесниоЛенине/ Three Songs About Lenin (Dziga Vertov, 1934) and Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932).
In 1979, Barrios y Pueblos continued to extend its sphere of action with screenings in Deba, Escoriatza, Urnieta, Tudela and Pamplona. Meanwhile the Festival continued to diversify its programme, with new sections such as the 'Arthouse panorama' (with the intention of promoting a market specialised in independent films), the 'Season of nationalities' (an initiative where the role of Juan Miguel Gutiérrez was key and which aimed to shed light on films made in stateless nations or those to have recently gained their independence) and the free programmes 'Season of films for the retired' and 'Season of films for children'. Several lines of work were therefore maintained which sought not only to incorporate new aesthetic and political points of view to the Festival programme but also to lend popularity to its structure and interaction with new publics who had previously been excluded from its activity – precisely the lines of work that Barrios y Pueblos had started to develop two years earlier.
However, from that year on, the promoters of Barrios y Pueblos came up against a fundamental problem: the regulations of the FIAPF and of the commercial distribution companies, which limited the number of screenings and the places where a film premiered in the Official selection could be screened, obliged the Committee to turn to titles forming part of the so-called "Festival library". This archive (now conserved in the Basque Film Archive) is composed of copies of films to have won awards at earlier editions and which their distribution companies were therefore obliged to deposit in the Festival collection. Gradually these titles occupied more and more space on the Barrios y Pueblos programme to the detriment of the premieres and selections of other sections. Combined with other factors such as disintegration of the residents' movement in the 80s, this change announced a path leading to loss of interest by the public of Barrios y Pueblos until final disappearance of the section in 1986.
As an example of this change, in 1979 the Barrios y Pueblos programme for the Don Bosco cinema mainly featured films coming from the Festival library, with the exception of Perla w koronie (Pearl in the Crown, Kasimierz Kutz, 1979) and Faustrecht der Freiheit (Fox and His Friends, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975).
Fassbinder's piece, alongside Sebastiane (Derek Jarman, 1976) and Un hombre llamado Flor de otoño (A Man Called Autumn Flower, Pedro Olea, 1978), were the three films selected by EHGAM [the Euskal Herriko Gay-Les Askapen Mugimendua gay and lesbian movement] for screenings and debates with the support of the Barrios y Pueblos Committee. These screenings acted like talks which were both educational and raised awareness on sexual diversity and liberation. It is important to stress that, at the time when this collaboration took place, the Law on Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation was still partially in effect, a law which was systematically applied to repress homosexuality and transsexuality. In fact, only a few months before the start of the 1979 Festival, the Basque society lived what some activists like Joseba Gabilondo Marques qualified as the "Basque Stonewall": the murder of the transvestite Francisco Vadillo Francis in Errenteria by a National Policeman unleashed an intense climate of mobilisation in favour of the rights and increased visibility of the gay and transsexual collective and provided a definitive boost for the EHGAM foundation. With this programme, designed together with the selfsame gay movement activists, the Barrios y Pueblos Committee once again demonstrated its ability to react in order to connect cinematic culture with the social movements of the day.
While developing the Z70 project, we came across the activist and co-founder of EGHAM, Mikel Martín Conde. His reports on the screenings in which he participated represent a living testimony of the extraordinary political intensity and activism achieved by the Barrios y Pueblos section. However, above all, he reminds us how this section, result of the pressure applied by the residents' associations, film clubs and social movements, would finally become a place of refuge, struggle and resistance.
"We were at a time when we'd emerged from the fascist dictatorship and there was so much to do. We liked the cinema and we knew that it was a cultural vehicle through which social realities could be seen and identified, something which didn't occur in the "grand" Festival, in the posh Festival, which earned the city its cachet. As gay activists and militants, we had absolutely no doubt as to our objective. And we took advantage of it. Through the Barrios y Pueblos section, we channelled visibility of the gay issue for the first time. With women too, like our friend Emilia [Martín Sánchez] from EGHAM, and other friends like Santi [Santiago Vicente Altxu], Joseba [Sansinenea], Juantxo [Quiroga] and myself.
What I remember, as a gay activist starting out at that time, is that we would say: "great, so if you'll let us choose the films we'll have this one, this one and this one". I remember three films: Un hombre llamado Flor de Otoño, Sebastiane and Faustrecht der Freiheitby Fassbinder. We went to rather a lot of places, with huge success. For me, today, forty years down the line, it's an unforgettable experience. It was extraordinary seen from the outside, but even more so seen from the inside. We didn't only relate with the people in the Barrios y Pueblos Committee, but with the public too. We felt very welcome. Today it might sound a little odd, but they were all accomplices. We were accomplices, men and women were 'friendly' when the term wasn't even used at that time.
Barrios y Pueblos was something exceptional for us, it was heaven. We didn't get paid for it, we did it as activists, to support our own interests, because we clearly realised that if we didn't do it ourselves we couldn't expect others to do it for us. In cultural matters, we knew that sexual diversity had to come from education and that our work was the revolutionary raising of awareness of sexuality, of our rights as gays and lesbians.
I perfectly remember, and with tremendous excitement, Lasarte with the theatre packed out at the Tedoso [cinema]. By the end of the screening we were talking to one another in first person. And I thought it was incredible that people would stay for the discussion. I had been accustomed to these discussions for years, because I liked watching films and had participated in film clubs and forums. This meant that I could make a comparison between those of us who had stayed five or six years previously and those who were doing it five or six years later. I was perfectly aware, we all were, that we also had drawing power for the morbid curiosity and novelty of [meeting] homosexuals and lesbians. But it was fantastic: people were hyper-respectful, mind-blowingly affectionate. That experience lies deep inside me with tremendous warmth. And we had the certainty that, somehow, we were doing something that had a future: being able to live affective-sexual diversity on an equal footing. Because at that time the Law on Social Dangerousness remained in place, and it was still putting people in prison. It was hugely empowering."