Roger, the son of the Solé de Alcarràs family, the young man who preferred peaches to desks –and with great honor, to the chagrin of his parents–, is now a pixapi. A Barcelonan. He has come to the big city to study Mechanics FP after his family lost their land, and he walks like an alien through the subway tunnels, like so many new town students before him. He wanders around the neighborhood market and sends pictures to his father for the price of fruit. 2.5 euros per kilo of peach. “Malparits!”, he replies on the spot.
Custodia Moreno, in the proclamation of La Mercè: “The improvements of the neighborhoods are the result of utopias. Be utopian”
This is a scene from ‘El Roger a Barcelona’, the spin-off of ‘Alcarràs’, the award-winning film by Carla Simón that aspires to the Oscars, whose script was unveiled today in Barcelona. With the exception that this will never see the big screen, but will have been read aloud only once, in the Saló de Cent of the Barcelona City Council, and to kick off the Mercè Festivities that start this Friday. . Simón, in charge of reading the proclamation of the festivities, has resorted to her language, the cinematographic, to talk about her Barcelona, the city that welcomes those who come from abroad. To her, who came from a Girona town to study Audiovisual Communication; to so many other young people who disembark each September for the first time in the Catalan capital, and also to the thousands of foreigners, children and adults, who arrive with fewer resources to make a living.
“The Barcelona we want is the one that listens to other territories, the one that weaves bridges with other smaller communities, the one that becomes a meeting point. The Barcelona we want is diverse, plural, welcoming, the one that embraces and listens to all these arrivals”, proclaimed the director of ‘Alcarràs’ and ‘Estiu 1993’ in front of a packed auditorium for the first time after the pandemic.
With the virtual presence of the mayor of the guest city of Rome – due to Sunday’s elections in Italy – the room was filled, in addition to dozens of neighbors, by President Pere Aragonès, the Ministers of Culture and Universities, Miquel Iceta and Joan Subirats and several consellers, deputies and councillors. Also the mayor of Alcarràs.
Simón began the proclamation speech by talking about his status as a Barcelonan. It is because she was born at the Hospital del Mar, where her mother Neus Pipó worked – who was also at City Hall, as some former colleagues wrote to her these days and Mayor Ada Colau recalled when introducing her. When she died, Simón moved to Les Planes d’Hostoles with his uncles and did not return to the city until he was 17. It was, as he celebrated this Friday, an arrival “dreamed of, desired and, therefore, privileged” . Then he has lived abroad for years, but he has always returned to the city where he still has “a lot to discover”. And to his neighborhood, the Sagrada Familia.
Before launching with the spin-off of ‘Alcarràs’, which he kept as the icing on the cake, Simón wanted to talk about the arrivals not by choice, like his, but by necessity, like that of so many migrants. He has done it, once again, through the language of the big screen, this time projected at the Saló de Cent. But the script was not his this time, but four short films made by teenagers from two public institutes that participate in the ‘Cinema en Curs’ project and a group of unaccompanied foreign migrants.
“Sometimes we find it difficult to put ourselves in the place of newcomers, we are impressed by otherness and we are unable to identify with the feelings of those who arrive where we already live,” reflected the filmmaker, herself a member of the Cinema en Curs program. Thanks to the audiovisual works of these young people, many of them from reception classrooms and with migration stories. “Stories that are close to them, that express their voice, that involve them and that often question us,” she expressed.
When introducing Simón, the mayor also wanted to make reference to the migrant group by encouraging citizens to sign the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) #RegularizationYa, that calls for the administrative regularization of people without papers.
And from these migrations to those from the Catalan countryside. “Is it possible to avoid the rural exodus? Given the impossibility of answering this question, I wonder: would it help if cities look beyond their borders? Could there be a more frequent dialogue between what is rural and what is urban?” Simón questioned those responsible for a city that is home to more than 10% of the Catalan population. And he left another political wedge for those who wanted to feel alluded to: “It is vitally important to turn cities into green and sustainable sites. We get angry when we cannot go by car through the streets of Barcelona where we used to drive, but friends, we must get angry to end up leaving the car at home”.
Finally, Simón has encouraged four of the protagonists of ‘Alcarràs’ to step forward, Albert Bosch (young Roger), Berta Pipó (aunt Glòria) and his friends Albert Baldomà and Laura Roqué, to read the script about the spin-off in which the Solé’s first-born son moves to the city. With ambient sound that enveloped the Hall and with Carla Simón as the narrator, the neighbors and authorities have been able to listen to how Roger confronts the quinoa that his aunt prepares for him during his journey through the city – “grandfather’s chickens would love it” – and the sticky heat of the fan-proof capital. He resists his new friends’ proposals to party in the city over the weekend – how can he give up going back to town on Saturday? – and, sitting on a bench at nightfall, he is surprised by the Pyrotechnics for the Mercè festivities.
“Pick up your cell phone and take a photo. He searches through his contacts until he finds his friend ‘Miquelet Júnior’”, Simón reads from his own text. “She sends him the photo with a message that he says. ROGER: ‘Hey, crazy, a lot of things happen here, you’ll come to visit’. End”, the filmmaker concluded. The final proclamation of her, less poetic, simpler, has come shortly after: “And here, my dear ones, the proclamation of La Mercè. Enjoy the infinite cultural offer… And happy local festival!”.