Alex de la Iglesia: "The internet is the savior of Spanish cinema"

'Anonymous' web activists show their face to jeer stars and defend downloading

Alongside Agustí Villaronga, the other man of the 25th Goya Awards gala was Alex de la Iglesia - not for the prizes his film A Sad Trumpet Ballad won (a meager two), but for the speech he made as Cinema Academy president.

The filmmaker, who is to leave his post once new elections are called in the next three months, delivered a speech of unity and farewell that dealt head on with the issues surrounding the recently passed "Sinde" anti-downloading law, the principal reason for his departure. "It might seem that we arrive at this day divided, but that is the result of each of us fighting for our convictions, because we all have the same goal, which is the defense of cinema... I congratulate everyone for walking together in difference," he said in a serious tone.

"Without the audience, none of this makes sense," said De la Iglesia
One protestor said he was off to the movies after the demonstration
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Under the eye of Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde, and just a few days after the disastrous figures for Spanish cinema in 2010 came to light, he didn't shy away from offering a robust judgment of the current situation: "Without the audience, none of this makes sense."

"The rules of the game have changed," he continued. "The internet is not the future, as many people think; it is the present. The audience we have lost is not going to the movies, because they are sat in front of a computer screen. We are not afraid of the internet - it is the savior of our cinema.

"I want to say goodbye at my last ceremony as president," he continued. "Winning or losing doesn't matter if we can make films; we are filmmakers, we tell stories so people can live in them, we create dreams," he said.

Earlier De la Iglesia had been the only main arrival not to be booed by representatives of the Anonymous collective of internet users, who had come to protest the "Sinde law" outside the Teatro Real. "Alex, our friend, Sinde has sold you out!" they chanted. More than 200 people, the majority dressed in the group's trademark Guy Fawkes masks from the film V for Vendetta, arrived to demonstrate against the closure of websites offering free downloads of copyrighted cultural content. "The people will not surrender to Sinde," and "Censorship is not culture" were some of the most-repeated chants.

Demonstrators handed out lists to the arriving actors of websites where their films could be downloaded, as well as - De la Iglesia aside - giving a dose of vocal jeering to anyone who passed along the red carpet. Actor Javier Bardem was among the most criticized, with "No Country for Bardem," one of the milder chants against him. The biggest jeers, however, were for González-Sinde, who was one of the last to enter the Teatro Real.

Words, though, were as far as the majority wanted to go. The throwing of eggs by a few protesters met with indignation from the others: "The egg-throwers do not represent us," they shouted.

"This is an anarchic movement, but an organized one. Self-managed, without ideologies," said one young member. He said the only reason for the protest was, at least in his case, not the "Sinde law," but to defend downloading. In fact, once the demonstration was over, he said he was off to the movies to see True Grit.

Two youngsters, aged 30 and 31, who described themselves as "anonymous Murcians" who had just arrived in Madrid, said they had come to the protest because "the government wanted to bring in this law at any cost, despite several judges' sentences against it." D., J., and L., three friends aged between 28 and 30, were pleased to discover that on Sunday afternoon the Cinema Academy and Goya Awards websites had been taken down by a denial of service attack. They said the passing of the law by Congress would not stop the protests, nor take the wind out of the movement. On the contrary, "it will give it even more strength." Judging by the shouts in the Plaza de Oriente, they might not be wrong.

Demonstrators from the Anonymous collective, wearing masks from the film <i>V for Vendetta</i>, at the entrance to the Teatro Real on Sunday.
Demonstrators from the Anonymous collective, wearing masks from the film V for Vendetta, at the entrance to the Teatro Real on Sunday.CRISTÓBAL MANUEL
Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde and Academy President Alex de la Iglesia at the Goyas.
Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde and Academy President Alex de la Iglesia at the Goyas.REUTERS

Sinde: "I'm sorry Alex didn't win more"

The resignation of Cinema Academy president Alex de la Iglesia over the controversial "Sinde" anti-internet piracy law had threatened to cloud the 25th Goya Awards. But a spirit of reconciliation prevailed on Sunday night as he and Culture Minister Angeles González-Sinde put aside their differences to be photographed and sit alongside each other at the ceremony.

González-Sinde said on Monday that she had felt "very comfortable" at a gala she knows "very well" and declared she thought De la Iglesia's speech had been "very good."

The minister did have one complaint, however: "I only felt sorry that Alex did not get more prizes, because he had a difficult time in his double role as president and nominee." She later added: "At the end of the day, it has been a good gala and that he has been a great president."

De la Iglesia also tried to play down the controversy the following day. "My resignation is not so important. It is a voluntary position, unpaid and at this moment it is better that I don't do it," he told National Radio. Straight after delivering his gala speech on Sunday night the director drew a line under the affair on his Twitter page. "That's all. Tomorrow I shoot. What a delight," he wrote.

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