- En Construcción
- Work in progress (2001)A milestone in Spanish documentary, En construcción follows the impact that the construction of a new building has in El Raval, one of Barcelona's oldest and most colorful popular districts. Next to the city center with its world-famous architecture, El Raval was for decades infamous for its brothels, high rate of criminality and illegal immigration, and derelict tenement houses. After the renovation of certain areas of the Catalan capital to coincide with 1992's Olympics, urban authorities decided to tackle problems in the neighborhood in 1998, setting up a scheme to rehabilitate one of its most problematic areas by pulling down older buildings, laying out a large open area, and adding new residences.José Luis Guerin, one of the great independents in post-Franco cinema, known to a very select public by his Bressonian Los motivos de Berta (Berta's Reasons, 1985), saw in this institutional intervention a good theme for a documentary. He followed the erection of a new structure for a whole year as it rose amid the old quarter, and observed the shifting relationship between the traditional inhabitants of the area (immigrants, working-class youth, retired old folk) and the new lifestyle that the building was meant to attract. The result constitutes a deep look at urban social dynamics and a strongly political statement on globalization and progress.There is no voice-over commentary, just a series of eloquent images and fly-on-the-wall scenes that follow generally a small group of characters: builders (most prominently, an immigrant and his trainee) at the construction site, an old raving madman who claims to have traveled the world discusses an assortment of odd objects he carries with him, a youth of a slightly vague disposition and his prostitute girlfriend are the most prominent, featured along with a wide cross-section of the Raval population. Some of the events captured by Guerín's cameras were mere coincidences, but they are used to support the film's central discourse: when the early excavations come upon a Roman burial site, Guerín spends time watching and listening to the reactions of individuals, their awe of history.By the end of the film, the building is completed and prospective buyers for the bright, new apartments come to visit. It is not surprising that they are all interested in living in the old town, but most express their discomfort about "all those people" whose lives we have been following. The building will potentially change the way of life of the old inhabitants of the quarter, but, as it becomes clear, never solve their problems.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.