Huge Crisis for Catalan Documentaries

Below follows a translated article from the Catalan newspaper Ara´s online version written by journalist and critic Xavi Serra, who is also covering the festival DocsBarcelona. is one of the main Catalan newspapers:

“During the feast of the candidates for the Gaudí of the Catalan Film Academy that was held Tuesday at the Old Damm Factory, not everything was smiles, kisses and hand-held people among the people of cinema.

The presentation of the films registered in the 10th edition of the Gaudí awards revealed a reality that the sector knew was already coming for months: the general decrease in Catalan audiovisual production and, in particular, the great decline in the documentary , that of the 19 candidates of 2016 this year had only 9 enrolled, almost half of titles.

A bucket of cold water for Catalan non-fiction… and all the consulted voices in the sector agree to point out one main reason: the sharp decline in the economic contribution of TV3 to the co-production of documentaries.

Televisió de Catalunya, TV3, has presumed for many years to be the engine of the Catalan documentary, but this strength has proved to be the weak point in the sector as the economic contribution has been declining. TV3, like all European televisions, is obliged to invest 6% of revenue in audiovisual productions, an amount of which is used to allocate 10% for the documentary.

Last year, support for the documentary was 647,000 euros; This year it has fallen to 245,000, 62% less. It is not surprising, then, that less documentaries were presented to Gaudí. But the worst thing is that the effects of this cut will be felt even more next year.

Why does the TV3 crisis build up especially with the documentary? The financing ecosystem of the Catalan audiovisual sector basically includes TV3, the ICEC (Catalan Institute of Cultural Companies) and the ICAA (Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts), but the support of a television is indispensable to get help from the ICEC or the ICAA. If TV3’s door is closed, fictions can be used on other channels, including private ones, but for documentaries it is more complicated. For non-fiction projects, TV3’s support is decisive; Without this cushion, most do not get to come true.

Ventura Durall, who produced the winning documentary of the last Gaudí, Mayoress, is convinced: “Without TV3 as the core of the Catalan documentary there is nothing to do. We are at historic lows of investment and the producers flee and look for life, wherever they can to survive. “

As a result of its crisis, TV3 has concentrated its scarce resources on the products with the most antenna potential, that is, journalistic documentaries and news-linked language, which have an easy connection to programs such as Sense Fiction The great damage of this policy, clarified, is done to the creative documentary with a cinematographic vocation, which Catalonia has flagged and has been an international power for the last 15 years…

Jordi Ambrós, director of documentary co-productions of TV3, acknowledges that the last commission was “very hard” in this sense, and that they could not enter into co-production of the most cinematic projects. “In the last commission we were not even able to support ”On the other side of the wall” (Pau Ortiz), which ended up winning the Hot Docs in Toronto, the world’s largest documentary festival,” says Ambrós. To the extent that there is less money, non-fiction has been primed and the creative documentaries have been unprotected. “

The worst thing is that the problem has no solution in sight. Ambrós, who is already working on the evaluation of the projects of the next commission, is not able to make sure if in 2018 there will be more funds for the documentary. “On one side there is the VAT claim made by the Treasury, and on the other, the deficit of TV3,” he said. An extra contribution was agreed with the Government, but if we are not involved nothing is safe. Now, 94 projects have been presented, but we are evaluating blindly, because we do not know how much money there will be. “

In this apocalyptic context, however, there continue to be documentaries coming up. “In spite of everything, the talent and the need for creation are unstoppable,” says Durall, who believes that only “small miracles” continue to emerge works that triumph over the world. In the last Hot Docs, ”On the Other Side of the Wall”, he took the prize for the best film. And ”La Chana” (PHOTO), one of the 9 candidates for Gaudí, won the public award 2016 IDFA in Amsterdam, the greatest European documentary festival. “The documentary is a genre more ductile than fiction and can be done with a lot less money,” Ambrós notes. We continue to receive many pieces and discover a lot of young talent. However bad, the situation is, it will not end with the creation of creators, but it jeopardizes the survival of some producers. “

Without denying the responsibility of TV3, Ambrós places the problem in the context of a system crisis in public financing. “All European televisions are in crisis, it’s not just TV3,” he said. ”Talent will survive, but moving from televisions and opening new paths like online platforms. “Producers expect the Netflix and Movistar+ investments to take into account the documentary and look forward to the interest of the private ones for crime documentaries. But the direction that the Catalan documentary could take could be if the production criteria were merely commercial. “We play the country model: that of mediocrity or that of excellence,” says Ventura Durall.

Support of TV3 to documentary
2011 1.347.500 euros
2012 353.000 euros
2013 865.000 euros
2014 812.000 euros
2015 673.000 euros
2016 647.000 euros
2017 245.000 euros

Also the producer Tono Folguera, has written about the situation for documentaries referring to the article above:

… for years, many of us have done everything possible to get the attention of our politicians, because the problem of the Catalan documentary is solely political. It is not a lack of prepared professionals, new talent, of experienced producers, of generational spare part, no, it is a problem of political will to respect us as a culture, of wanting to keep our historical memory, our point of sight, our way of doing, of seeing the world. If we do not do it, who do you think will do it? We did not need the 155, with the reluctance and disinterest of our Parliament, we have had enough. Without a strong public television, well structured and with ressources to offer quality productions, there is nothing to do. We had built a jewel that is still called Sense Fiction, which today survives as it can exclusively thanks to the talent of the professionals inside and outside TV3… Personally I am disappointed, tired and burned as a victim of political interests, of people who consciously put forward a handful of votes to save such an important entity for a country as its public television. Personally, I think we have already done it late, but as Catalans as we are, from Pro-Docs and from PROA – Federated Audiovisual Producers, we will continue to fight to try to make society and especially the new Parliament understand the unconsciousness of settling an area where We have succeeded in being an important voice in Europe.”

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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