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GIJÓN 2023

Review: El Cine, 5


- Documentary filmmaker Elisa Cepedal revisits the history of her hometown in Asturias in her personal and affecting sophomore feature

Review: El Cine, 5

If you open Google Maps and search for Barredos, in the autonomous community of Asturias in Northern Spain, you’ll see a small cluster of streets, sprawling outwards from a single location, the train station. With a population of around 1,600 people today, Barredos began as a mining town and grew considerably in the 1950s. Local filmmaker Elisa Cepedal has dedicated her sophomore feature to the history of her hometown: El Cine, 5 [+see also:
interview: Elisa Cepedal
film profile
world-premiered in the Retueyos section of the 61st FICX in Gijón, which is located less than 40 km away from the place itself.

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“El Cine” (lit. “Cinema”) is actually the name of the street where Cepedal’s grandfather, a local photographer, had his studio, at number 5. Call it a sign if you wish, because she is the one who brings cinema to the equation, as she revisits the town’s history. The visual approach of El Cine, 5, at least at the beginning, resembles a photo-essay, where photographs are shown, consecutively, to the camera in close-up and extreme close-up as the voices of the town’s older residents narrate a web of personal and professional relations. Cepedal recorded interviews with people she has known since she was little, but this time around, their stories find their way into an audiovisual repository where they will be kept safe and sound forever, or for as long as cinema exists.

The small mining town is shrinking; its heyday is over, and what people have left are mostly their memories of comradeship and resistance. Their stories tell of the post-war period and Franco’s dictatorship, but always within a familial or coworking context. Micro-histories help to paint the bigger picture, but while this is a truism in its own right, El Cine, 5’s oral testimonies are huddled so closely together that they become a monumental – and sometimes paradoxical – instance of collective memory. Post-memory in the post-industrial era can appear unapologetically nostalgic, but Cepedal’s proximity to the subject and the decision to include her own voice in the recordings through occasional interjections and questions makes the past come alive and tell its own story.

El Cine, 5 also incorporates static, long takes in colour, shot by Cepedal in the last couple of years, as she returns to the places from her grandfather’s photographs, taken between the late 1940s and the 1970s. A photographer of weddings and confirmations, he also documented the town’s strike movement, protests and the funeral processions that took place when a miner died on the job. In the voices of the people of Barredos, one can still hear the ring of acute political awareness, and the same sharpness guides Cepedal’s formal decisions. She is the film’s maker, even when she retreats to let history speak through others; her contemporary footage looks minimal, but its contextual role is priceless. Barredos lives on in her and in her film, without an ounce of nostalgia, because nostalgia is solitary, whereas El Cine, 5 is togetherness across space and time.

El Cine, 5 is a Spanish production by De la Piedra.

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