Why Produce a Documentary?

Catalunya Barcelona tells the story of Barcelona, from the perspective of Catalan identity, for the English-speaking market. It’s a story that’s never been told.

That’s what I say to people after they ask “What do you do?” And after I respond “I’m making a documentary,” and after they reply, “What’s it about?”

It’s a story that’s never been told is the takeaway. That’s what inspired the idea, and it was an idea that struck me about 4 years ago, when I realized that I’d been living in Barcelona longer than I had anywhere in the world other than the town I grew up in in the United States.

At that moment, I also realized that, in spite of reaching this milestone, I knew nothing of Barcelona. So I resolved, in the next moment, to begin reading books and watching films focused on the city’s history.

I very quickly discovered that for a person without Castilian or Catalan language skills, there’s next to nothing out there. In terms of books, there are few.

Books about Barcelona written in English.

As shown in the GIF, there’s Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Robert Hughes’ Barcelona, Chris Ealham’s Class, Culture and Conflict in Barcelona, Simon Harris’ Catalonia is Not Spain, and Colm Tóibín’a Homage to Barcelona.

They’re all quite good, and a pleasure to read. They were all a huge help in researching for the Catalunya Barcelona documentary series. However, five books is not a lot of material, and as you can tell from the titles alone, most are focused on a specific moment in time, or a specific angle.

That’s really everything, other than what you’ll find in Wikipedia. As for film, while there are 10,000+ travel videos–and rightly so–focused on Barcelona, they’re travel videos. You don’t get much further than Gaudí and tapas–and rightly so.

The one filmic exception is a 1983 documentary series produced by Granada Films, entitled The Spanish Civil War. A remarkable film, but not specifically about Barcelona.

Granada Films’ Spanish Civil War documentary

I was shocked by the dearth of material available in English. The dichotomy struck me. From my perspective, everyone in the U.S. loves Barcelona, yet, at once, nobody in the U.S. knows anything about Barcelona. And in the next moment, I made a decision: If I ever have time, I’m going to make a documentary that tells the story of Barcelona to the English-speaking market. The opportunity presented itself in the spring of 2017.

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