Author: Juan Piqueras
Original Title: Nuestro cine amateur en Nuestro Cinema
Journal: Nuestro Cinema, num. 4, 2 Epoca
Date of Publication: August, 1935
Pages: 1
Nationality: Spanish
Original Language: ESP
Translator: Lisa Jarvinen
Presented by: 
Translation Committee of Society for Cinema and Media Studies, published in Cinema Journal 51, No. 2, Summer 2012
The intense political divisions in (interwar) Spain also played themselves out in the cafés and literary circles of Madrid in which (Juan) Piqueras was a leading figure. By 1930, he had become a committed leftist and would increasingly advocate for the radical possibilities of culture. Although he did not start the first cine club in Spain—his friend Buñuel had done so a few years earlier at the Residencia de Estudiantes—Piqueras championed them extensively. To advance his political and cultural projects, Piqueras left Madrid for Paris in the spring of 1930. He went as the agent of Filmófono, a film distribution, exhibition, and production company created by Ricardo María de Urgoiti and Luis Buñuel. Piqueras would screen almost all new film releases and visit the major studios in Paris as he selected films both for the company and for Madrid’s cine club. He would also continue to write for a number of journals and newspapers. All of this set Piqueras up to become an extraordinarily influential critic.

The short 1935 editorial written by Piqueras for Nuestro cinema translated here is of particular scholarly interest as a manifesto for political use of nontheatrical production and exhibition cinematic practices. It articulates the need to move from print to film medium as a means of political organizing while at the same time insisting on the democratization of the medium itself (by taking it out of the hands of capital). Piqueras thus participates in the larger international discussion, between critics and filmmakers, of the revolutionary potential of the new medium. His position aligned him with those who, in the name of radical democracy, sought to abolish individual film authorship and attacked film’s status as art, in the hope that cinematic production as well as reception would be opened to the masses.

Piqueras’s discussion of the uses of portable technology also positions him within the recent scholarly developments in the history of “useful cinema.”But while much of this recent scholarship focuses on industrial, commercial, and state-mandated uses of portable equipment and nontheatrical exhibition and production practices, Piqueras’s work highlights the need to consider alternative cultural functions of such an expanded notion of cinematic apparatus.

- excerpted from Lisa J., “Juan Piqueras Biography,” and Masha Salazkina, “Introduction to Juan Piqueras: Amateur Cinema in Nuestro Cinema,” in Cinema Journal, 51, No. 2, Summer 2012

Juan Piequeras – Amateur Cinema in Nuestro Cinema

 

 

 

Nuestro cinema, which has occasionally published articles and news about amateur cinema and the rules for national and international amateur film competitions, will today inaugurate this section as a permanent supplement. As in other sections [of Nuestro cinema], in this one dedicated to amateur cinema we will analyze all its problems and facts from an independent point of view and from an understanding of proletarian culture. In other words, we will give to the cinema—and to art in general—an eminently practical sense of direct assessment with the ideological content that each of its manifestations requires. We believe that we have made it sufficiently clear what we want and what we are fighting for so as not to need to repeat ourselves here.

Like mainstream cinema everywhere (with the fortunate exception of the Soviet Union), amateur film is the fief of the dominant classes. In Spain, a country with an underdeveloped economy, amateur film is presently inaccessible not only to the proletariat but even to the petit bourgeoisie. The fact that amateur film has made it to Iberia by way of Catalonia and that at present it is Catalonia (a much more economically developed area than the rest of Spain) that holds sway over almost all activity related to amateur cinema is very significant. This means that only Catalonia, where all classes have achieved a higher standard of living, has amateur cinema. This is, naturally, a decisive factor in the cultural and social evolution of humanity, and only Catalonia has been able to engage in concerted action and give a certain amplitude and a definite internationalism to its amateur filmmaking movement.

The classes that today have all the means of production in their hands call amateur cinema a sport because they cannot give it any other name. The same people who describe mainstream cinema as an element of culture that is spectacular or recreational (and rarely political and never an instrument or weapon of class, as the advanced proletariat would describe it) cannot give any other name to a cinematographic manifestation that, even if to a lesser degree, possesses all the characteristics of mainstream cinema, including its striking lack of accessibility for the working classes. But the proletariat must not consider amateur cinema as anything but a weapon with which to fight the social and cultural battle that is being waged. For this very reason, the proletariat must do everything necessary to seize it and train itself in its use.

In isolation, a proletarian cannot acquire the requisite production and projection apparatuses for cinematographic activity. But because amateur cinema is a necessary instrument for proletarian culture and its ongoing struggle, the proletariat that unites its efforts and savings to edit a newspaper, to publish a book, or to create a common library must exert itself one more time to acquire everything necessary for direct, decisive action in favor of amateur cinematography. In this sense, amateur cinema offers countless advantages over mainstream cinema. In the first place, the apparatuses are easy to use. Whether for production or projection, anyone can use them. But the most worthwhile thing is the savings represented by raw film stock, its developing, and its projection. A regular projection room is often beyond the economic reach of an organization that wishes to use it. Between the film rental, the room, and the costs of advertising, the budget for the meeting is almost always used up. An amateur film apparatus can be installed anywhere—any room or meeting hall will do. The program, even if rented, is infinitely cheaper, and the results of the session in terms of artistry and spectacle are the same, even as the cost is much lower. This assumes that the program will use both amateur cinema’s capacity for immediate representation and part of the offerings that film and equipment companies make available for the entertainment of wealthy families. And of course it should also take advantage of all those films that the censors have prohibited in the mainstream cinema but have reproduced as 8, 9.5, 16, and 17.5 millimeter films, because at present amateur cinema is not censored. But the day when autonomous production ensures a national and international exchange of films and constitutes a repertoire that depicts the life and essential struggles of the proletariat of the world, that shows their ideas and initiatives, their labors and problems, the amateur cinema as a means of expression will have opened up a new path. The proletariat who uses amateur cinema will then have a valuable ally in the struggle to create a better world through a classless society.

We intend this new supplement to coordinate, orient, and help, in every way possible, the establishment of a proletarian amateur cinema movement. We introduce it with the same enthusiasm and intentions as when we created Nuestro cinema.