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Letter read at the Vampir-Cuadecuc presentation at MoMA
1972
Pere Portabella

The fact that I cannot be here today – much against my will – forces me to write these lines as an introduction to my film.

 

VAMPIR is an attempt at a reflection on cinematic language. Perhaps, since it was made during the shooting of Jesus Franco’s production COUNT DRACULA, it is also an attempt to analyze that genre of fantasy denigrated by most horror films, an exploration and rethinking of the problem of the “vampire film”. But fundamentally – and I want to point this out – VAMPIR is one of the first independent films in my country. And I must alert you to the fact that working outside the establishment is not a voluntary decision but rather something we are forced into by our political, social and cultural situation.

 

The only way possible for independent cinema in Spain is not to work under government patronage and avoid censorship by not working through the big distributors.  We also retain our roots in our specific reality by producing films in a way that is consistent with our ideologies and necessities; we must therefore refuse any concessions proposed by the government to work with it because these concessions would be, at best, nothing more than another extension of its power and it repressive policies. We must work within very limited means, our own, and though these methods are outside the system, we will transform the traditional conception of production. That is the only way, the only alternative, that will enable us to undertake the research of a specific film language that reflects or corresponds with, an awareness of the Spanish reality. This must be related to the roots of the revolutionary “avant-garde” that does not exempt the director, the filmmaker, from his historical responsibility in everyday life. We must unmask as hollow the political and artistic avant-garde movement  that ignores the masses and grows away from these concerns. This active position is evolving only outside the “legality” of a system that does not even maintain a minimum of democratic processes and has no way of accommodating criticism except through a repression that is commonplace today in Spain.

 

This position forces one to assume the consequences of staying outside the system and remaining  independent in a country where basic rights and freedoms simply do not exist; staying outside the system in a country where a meeting of no more than 19 people without government permission constitutes the crime of illegal assembly; where a strike can be regarded as a crime of military sedition; where censorship has a free hand and has neither respect nor understanding for individualism; where an act of homage for Picasso is illegal and where  a leading art critic and his students presiding over a public function honouring the Spanish painter at the University of Madrid where all jailed.   In the cultural sphere, the list of banned books, confiscated magazines, and shut down publishing companies is endless.  Plays and movies have been censored and forbidden, professors arrested and intellectuals and students jailed – the examples of repression are never-ending.

But repression is even worse for the workers. While the present regime with its foreign policy leans towards trying to be admitted to the European Common Market to strengthen the economy and gives the impression of freedom, still everyday the repression lingers as democratic movements grow stronger.

 

In this context ,the fact that I and so many colleagues engaged in intellectual activities, have been denied  passports to travel abroad explains why I am not in New York today.   As a result of the repression of the media,  Vampir, the film you are about to see, has no legal existence in my country. And this strange predicament must not be seen as an isolated case, but as a something that reflects the reality of Spain today better than any film officially representing Spain at any international Festival.

 

Thus, here is Vampir, not in spite of everything, but as a result of everything.

 

Pere Portabella

 

 

**

 

 

After the screening of the film, 107 people from the public signed a document that read:

 

We have just seen the Spanish film VAMPIR, by Pedro Portabella. We are dismayed and concerned that such an interesting and talented artist has been refused a passport. Pedro Portabella was invited as a guest of the Department of Film of The Museum of Modern Art in order to introduce his film to an American public.

 

Our signatures to this note indicate our solicitude and our hope that such a regrettable incident as this -an artist being refused the means to attend an event of importance to him and to a film community at large- will not be repeated.

 

Information

Letter written by Pere Portabella and read in his absence during the presentation of the film Vampir-Cuadecuc at MoMA of New York. The director was unable to attend because the Francoist authorities withdrew his passport for being part of several clandestine groups of the dissent. At the end of the session, 107 people, including filmmakers like Jonas Mekas, artists and film critics, signed a letter addressed to the Spanish embassy asking that this situation would not happen again.

1972 – Writing – Letter read at the Vampir-Cuadecuc presentation at MoMA

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Copyright ©. All rights reserved. Pere Portabella – Films 59.

Copyright ©. All rights reserved.

Pere Portabella – Films 59.