Evictions played out on the big screen

A documentary and a feature film tackling the hot topic are both in production in Spain

A still from documentary ‘Seven Days,’ showing activists holding a noisy protest in a bank branch.
A still from documentary ‘Seven Days,’ showing activists holding a noisy protest in a bank branch.

If cinema is a reflection of society, the drama of home evictions in Spain has taken its time to hit the big screen. But not just one, but two films about the subject are now in production. The first is the documentary Siete días (or, Seven Days), focusing on the Barcelona Mortgage Victims Association (known in Spanish by its acronym PAH), following the work of the activist group during the space of a week.

The other is Techo y comida (or, A roof and food), a fictional story following a single mother with an eight-year-old son who is facing being thrown out of her home after falling behind on her rent. The director is Juan Miguel Castillo, and the shoot will get underway in Jerez this fall.

The documentary has been made possible thanks to PAH’s so-called “Video Cell,” three activists from the platform who have professional links to the world of cinema. Pau Faus is the producer-editor; Xavi Andreu takes care of sound; and Silvia González Laá is in charge of the script.

People know about the protests but we wanted to show the work behind the scenes”

Divided into the seven days of one week, the film shows the welcome given to victims, emotional support groups, coordination meetings and negotiations with banks (“You are talking to me in terms of money, and I’m talking to you about people,” one activist is heard telling an employee of one lender). Also seen on screen are protests staged in bank branches, as well as acts of civil disobedience, such as attempts to stop evictions.

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“People know about the PAH’s street protests but here we wanted to show the work that goes on behind the scenes,” explains scriptwriter González. “We see the process of empowering the victims, who arrive at the first meeting completely worn out, but then start to understand that it is not their fault and that they have the right to a home.”

The three filmmakers already have a rough cut, to which they are going to put the final touches ready for screening in September, hopefully at festivals and TV networks. So far members of PAH have been shown the movie, prompting laughs and tears in equal measure.

The film that will be made by Juan Miguel del Castillo, meanwhile, will show evictions from a completely different angle. The movie will focus on the impotence and solitude of a 25-year-old single mother. Natalia de Molina, who recently won a Goya award for Best New Actress, will be taking the lead role. In a promotional video, De Molina says she is thrilled to represent another victim of “a society that has seen the crisis push thousands of people into insecurity,” and stresses the “social and human value of the script.”

‘Express evictions’ allow for people to be thrown out in just four months”

Del Castillo explains that the film is set in Jerez “because, as with the rest of Andalusia, the city has been severely punished by high unemployment.” He adds that he chose a rental flat for the protagonist, Rocío, “because ‘express evictions’ allow for people to be thrown out in four months, which isn’t enough time for the victim to respond.”

Del Castillo explains that he decided to make the film when he saw on TV that his neighbor had been evicted. The film is not aimed at trivializing the drama, nor treating the issue with humor. “It tells the stark reality of ending up on the streets, the story of how she goes through this without telling anyone about it,” he explains. “I don’t go into the causes or the responsibilities, leaving each viewer to reach their own conclusions.”

The director and the producers have opted not to seek subsidies to make the film, resorting instead to crowd-funding, which has already brought them the €18,000 they need to cover the cost of equipment hire. To get the project off the ground, they need a further €50,000-75,000. The film’s producer, Germán García, says the movie “will make you a better person. The film is talking about survival in the 21st century.”

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