July 25, 1945, Barcelona, Spain

In a contemporary Spain that has seen Pedro Almodóvar leave his impressive mark on the cinematic horizon (his most recent film Julieta screened at a number of film festivals worldwide last year) critics may be forgiven for privileging the Madrid filmmaker. Nevertheless, his equally prolific fellow cineaste Ventura Pons is just as worthy of critical attention. As a Catalan native, Pons generally remains faithful to his region and often uses Barcelona not only as an urban backdrop to his plots but indeed also as an additional character displayed in all its alternatively Francoist documentary bleakness or postmodern ‘glory.’ The city steps forth as a force to be reckoned with and a character in its own right, constantly influencing characters who either praise or reject it, not always in equal measure. In line with this, Jaume Martí-Olivella declares that “Ventura Pons is perhaps the only filmmaker who has established a personal cinematic idiom about the city [of Barcelona], his own city.”1 Pons’ privileged status as a director has earned him the title as Vice President for the Spanish Film Academy and in 2015 he was awarded the prestigious Premio Gaudí de Honor-Miguel Porter for his contribution to Spanish and Catalan cinema. He has received numerous national and international accolades including “Life-time Achievement” awards bestowed upon him in cities as diverse as Chicago, Galway, Lima, Torino, Piešťany and Montpellier, and in his native Spain he has been awarded the Spain Fine Arts Medal, the Catalan National Film Award, the Catalan Saint Jordi Cross, and the Gaudí Honour Award, to name but a few. In 2012, the University of Colorado in Denver held the conference “Ventura Pons: The Unconventional Gaze of Catalan Cinema”, celebrating the cinema of the Catalan cineaste. All this reflects Pons’ international reputation as a filmmaker.

The former theatre director has provided viewers with almost 30 feature films2 and several additional documentaries to date, all generally released concurrently with films by Almodóvar. When chronologically analysed, Pons’ films serve as visual documents telling of the recent history of Spain and its socio-political transformation since the introduction of democracy to the country during the period of transition or restoration after Franco’s death in 1975 (Spain’s first general elections were held in 1977). The films give us an insight into urban and societal changes that are partly the result of the rapid democratisation process Spain has experienced ever since the early post-Francoist 1980s. In his oeuvre, Pons reflects the globalising process that also affects Spain today, and yet his documentaries and semi-documentaries refer to the Franco era in a multilayered fashion; connecting the past and present through dialogues that are of social, political, and historical relevance, and flashbacks used as an effective narrative technique.

Unlike Almodóvar, whose films are based on screenplays largely written by himself,3 Pons generally adapts texts by Catalan authors and playwrights to the screen. In doing so he draws from his own extensive experience in theatre, dating back to the 1960s, and is artistically inspired by writers including Lluís-Anton Baulenas, Sergi Belbel, Lluïsa Cunillé, Quim Monzó, Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, Jordi Puntí, Ferran Torrent, Raul Núñez (who died in 1996), Joan Barbero, and David Leavitt. These writers raise their voice in a literary climate no longer stifled by Francoist censorship. They show a remarkable ability to elaborate on themes applicable to contemporary Spanish society in general. As a result, both Pons’ films and the texts on which they are based are pertinent to the comparatively liberal and liberalising postmodernity of Spain today; a time of freedom of choice where people often seem to live for the moment and for immediate future gains rather than lingering in the past (for better or worse).

Additionally, as Spain has forged an ever more stable democracy since the late 1970s, Pons (like Almodóvar) shows social, cultural and political insight and awareness by presenting us with protagonists whose concerns are globally applicable. Common themes are human affection and a lack thereof, an individual sense of alienation or estrangement within a transformed urban habitat, and sexual explorations and transgressions as a way for the protagonists to temporarily escape the sometimes alienating urban environment. Again like Almodóvar, Pons also connects the viewer with the comparatively recent pre-democratic past. However, while the Madrid filmmaker generally does so through a focus on the Spanish pueblo often reflective of times gone by, Pons concretely calls the repressive Catalan past back into the screened present through filmed real life conversations and documentary footage that makes the viewer aware of Catalonia’s historical battles. Such experimental narrative structures are perhaps most clearly seen in Barcelona (un mapa) (2007) and Forasters (Strangers, 2008) – the 1960s era in the latter is likened to a “flashback in which characters recall or re-live their past, is part of a reflection on and a questioning of a changing society.”4 Pons’ most recent documentary Cola, Colita, Colassa (Oda a Barcelona) (2015) also allows a number of individuals to engage in a political dialogue that inevitably touches on the Franco era, with negative comments made by perceptive females, that are refreshing in their honesty.

Ventura Pons

Barcelona (un mapa) (2007)

Pons’ films repeatedly mirror this gradually more open rejection of the Franco regime; one that has left a particularly bitter aftertaste amongst Catalonians. Their continuous struggle for national independence has forged a people who may generally connect more readily with other European capitals than with Madrid –  a city they are reluctant to compare themselves with, despite their competitiveness.

In keeping with the Catalan quest for national independence, Pons gives Barcelona a privileged status in his cinema, and although he settles for alternative shooting locations in films like Rosita, Please! (1993), Amor idiota (2004), La vida abismal (2007), and A la deriva (2009) (with plots partly unfolding in Valencia, Chad, Buenos Aires, and Sofia), in some of his earlier films the characters enjoy an almost organic relationship with the Catalan capital. This is most definitely the case in Ocaña, retrat intermitent (1978), and La rossa del bar (1986). In the very opening scene of the latter, male protagonist Mario (Enric Majó) expresses his affection for Barcelona and compares it to a living organism that breathes “just like you and I.”5 This declaration of love echoes Pons’ own tribute to his city: “Yo estoy agradecido a la ciudad en la cual me muevo y que es muy bonita. Yo la quiero profundamente” (“I am grateful to the beautiful city I move within and love it deeply”).6

Ventura Pons

Ocaña, retrat intermitent (1978)

The intimate relationship between city and citizen becomes most clearly visible in Ocaña, retrat intermitent, Pons first feature film that initially screened at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. In a film “seen as a sign of the definite death of Francoism”7 Pons both liberalises the urban space and documents the life of an alternative individual who operates freely within an opened up urban climate – that of Barcelona during its period of destape (a “sexual liberation – associated with the immediate post-Franco period”).8 Pons’ focus on real Andalusian transvestite and homosexual painter José Pérez Ocaña, who was able to express himself openly in a considerably accommodating Catalan climate after being ostracized in his native village, can be seen as a way for the filmmaker to give free reign to Movida-like alternative lifestyles and sexual expressions on screen. In this liberalising documentary, Pons presents his viewers with a man whose transgressive attitude to life and to his own body and identity mirrors the transformative times Spain as a whole experienced at the time. Although the transvestite can be seen as an icon of Spanish transition through their transformative and performative nature, Pons’ Andalusian artist maintains that he is no transvestite but a “teatrero, pero puro” (“a true performer”)”.9 Ocaña’s theatrical performativity is at once subversive and reflective of the transformed Catalan metropolis at the time. Throughout the film he flamboyantly strolls through the streets of la Rambla and la Villa impersonating a female, and at one stage he casually flashes his penis in the open in what feels like an oddly natural act that has been seen as a violation of the “golden rule of drag.”10 Nevertheless, this act becomes an important part of Ocaña’s constant street performance. In a year when a new democratic constitution addressed the issue of regional independence, the crossdresser was also being acknowledged and just like Ocaña (or The Queen of Las Ramblas) appeared in drag, impersonating different roles along the way, Spain itself similarly shed its clothes and dressed up in a modernizing, alternative outfit.

Pons’ filmic tribute to Ocaña (dead at age 36 when his disguise caught fire in 1983) was followed by another documentary released the same year Catalonia was “given a statute of autonomy and recognised as a ‘nationality.’”11 The themes in Informe sobre el FAGC (1979) relate to issues already dealt with in Ocaña, retrat intermitent and serve to better understand Pons’ preliminary documentary about the man, the artist and the liberalised climate he operated within. Informe sobre el FAGC discusses alternative genders and sexualities, and the openly homosexual filmmaker can be said to have come full circle when, decades later, he would release a documentary on yet another gay artist. In a manner as frank as that of Ocaña, HIV positive Catalan museum expert Ignasi Millet in the 2013 documentary Ignasi M. is up-front about his liberal lifestyle. Although as opposed to Ocaña, Millet does not face the incomprehension of his fellow regional citizens, he too struggles – under the financial hardship still rampant in Spain today. This again reflects Pons’ awareness of issues of concern in contemporary Spanish – and Catalan – society (and in Europe in general).12

In 1981, the liberalised Movida climate that influenced both Madrid and Barcelona at the time was visually and narratively reflected in Pons’ camp comedy El vicari d’Olot (The Vicary of Olot) which predates Almodóvar’s similar Entre tinieblas (1983) – although in the case of Pons’ film, the focus is on male vicars rather than nuns and the setting is predominantly rural (the Catalan town of Sant Boi de Llobregat is one of the main filming locations) instead of urban. The sexual liberties taken within Pons’ screened parish – where we are told that the time has come to call for a Catholic sexual congress – mirror the concurrent sexual revolution in Spain, where more conventional attitudes to sexuality and alternative identities now gave way to more liberalising trends.

In the same year Spain became a member of the European Economic Community, Pons released a film reflecting the affluence and increasing modernity of the great metropolis of Barcelona. La rossa del bar (The Blonde at the Bar, 1986) becomes a dual declaration of love – not only in its focus on an unexpected love affair between a soon to be ex-prostitute and the man who falls for her, but also with regard to the affectionate manner in which this man addresses his city of Barcelona. In both the frank and existential ponderings early in this film, aforementioned character Mario addresses at once his female love interest Marta (Núria Hosta) and the nocturnal metropolis sprawled out beneath his balcony – ultimately paying tribute to both the woman and the city. Pons’ subsequent comedy Puta misèria! (Dammed Misery, 1989) again situates the plot in Barcelona and also Alboraya, Valencia. With the camp comedy Què t’hi jugues, Mari Pili? (What’s Your Bet, Mari Pili?, 1990 – based on a novel by Joan Barbero) the cineaste entered the 1990s. Released the same year as Almodóvar’s Átame and two years prior to the Summer Olympics that would considerably transform the Catalan metropolis, Què t’hi jugues, Mari Pili? shares commonalities with Almodóvar’s Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988). Both plots develop within urban apartments and both films can be considered comedies of manners, despite the fact that the stock characters in Almodóvar’s melodrama are more readily classifiable as such than the female leads in Què t’hi jugues, Mari Pili?

Released in the Olympic year of 1992, Aquesta nit o mai (Tonight or Never) portrays Barcelona as an exuberant and more sophisticated urban space than had previously been the case on screen, and homosexuality becomes one of the governing themes. The film was followed by Rosita, Please! whose plot takes the viewer to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Narratively structured along a number of hypothetical statements, the plot develops seemingly at random with each event leading to unexpected outcomes. At a time when Almodóvar had entered his more cinematically sophisticated “blue era”, Pons now in turn looked towards Catalan writer Quim Monzó for inspiration, and by doing so he, too, embraced a more complex and postmodern narrative style and structure. El perquè de tot plegat (What It’s All About, 1994) is divided into 15 episodes all revolving around a set of characteristics and behaviours: Desire, Submission, Love, Jealousy, Wisdom, Honesty, Sincerity, Passion, and Faith. The film opens with a scene remarkably powerful in its simplicity: a man (played by Lluís Homar) addresses a (non-responsive) stone, speaking to it in earnest as if it were a fellow conversationalist. While in this initial scene the external setting is partly rural, a large part of the film takes place within internal environments and focuses on a number of conversations between only a few protagonists at a time. Pons here begins to steep his cinema in a more theatrical tradition, while distancing himself from his more easily digestible comedies of the 1980s and early 1990s. Instead, he invites the viewer to join him on an explorative journey into the human mind. A similar partly minimalist narrative structure would later appear in both Carícies (Caresses, 1998) and Morir (o no) (To Die (Or Not), 2000), as Pons drew further from the theatre.

Ventura Pons

Actrius (Actresses, 1997)

Between 1997 and 2000, Pons released some of his finest films: Actrius (Actresses, 1997), Carícies, Amic/Amat (Beloved/Friend, 1999), and Morir (o no). The technically less advanced, more down-to-earth human drama Anita no perd el tren (Anita Takes a Chance, 2001) – where the financial insecurities of a female protagonist (Anita, played by Rosa Maria Sardà) made redundant due to her age reflect not only economic downturn but also the contemporary obsession with youth – is also noteworthy, although it has been called “a more questionable” film.13 Actrius is based on a screenplay by Josep Maria Benet i Jornet and features four Catalan actresses who would continue to collaborate with Pons: aforementioned Sardà, Anna Lizaran, Núria Espert, and Mercè Pons. Focusing on three grand dames, the film pays tribute to the world of theatre (a genre which Pons has called “a metaphor for life”14). Like El perquè de tot plegat, Actrius also develops within mainly internal environments, such as inner-city Barcelona apartments (one located in the Barrio Gótico). Rather than portraying the characters in the context of their urban habitat, Pons remains faithful to the original screenplay maintaining his primary focus on the relationships between the main actresses and their reliance on the stage as a space where they can verbalise their feelings. And yet, somewhat ironically perhaps, “lack of communication”15 is ultimately one of the leitmotifs of both Actrius and the following Carícies.

With Carícies, Pons begins his artistic collaboration with playwright Sergi Belbel, and embarks on a minimalistic narrative journey which revolves around a breakdown of communication and where “violence, both physical and verbal, permeates the action.”16 Rather than embracing the possibility of meeting at a level of mutual understanding, nameless characters engage in flawed communications by resorting to verbal abuse or by ignoring each other altogether within the confines of an equally nameless city. Here, Barcelona could be replaced with almost any other 1990s western or southern European metropolis, now less accommodating than in previous decades as a result of an alienating postmodernity. Left behind is the more affective cityscape in Pons’ earlier films and – again like Almodóvar – he, too, now explores themes that reflect broader concerns amongst apparently more isolated contemporary citizens. The additionally fraught relationships between the protagonists seem to correlate with the fragmentation of the global metropolis: speedy shots of Barcelona now render the city all the more hostile and discomforting, and the utopia has generally become a dystopia.17

Ventura Pons

Carícies (Caresses, 1998)

In Amic/Amat, a filmic adaptation of a text by Benet i Jornet, salient themes include life and death, sexuality, old age, and the possibility of starting anew in another place and a different social context. It confronts the fear of memory loss and an interrelated nostalgia for a past that may be unrecoverable, but where a person’s legacy can ultimately be carried on through the birth of a new child. The film sits well within the global present where these issues have become more urgent. The film’s sense of postmodernity is achieved in both concrete and abstract ways. Firstly, Pons’ urban landscape (more appealing than the cold and hostile Barcelona in Carícies) now contains a number of stylish buildings and interiors that are highly contemporary. In the film, an essay on Ramon Llull entitled “Amic/Amat” (of which there are a limited number of copies on disc) sparks controversy when the final electronic copy is destroyed. Its disappearance could symbolically represent the larger issue of the fragmentation of collective memory. At one stage in the film, Pons also verbalises Barcelona’s historical battles in an existential dialogue between a mother, Fanny (played by Sardà) and her pregnant daughter Alba (Irene Montalà). In the scene where the two women are seen conversing against the backdrop of Santa Maria del Mar; “the only pure-Gothic church in all Catalonia”,18 Fanny reflects:

Landscape after the battles. Quite a few years and quite a few battles. What will my daughter do ten years and ten battles from now? Twenty years and twenty battles? Twenty, forty years and forty battles?19

With Morir (o no), Pons enters the new millennium and continues his existential discourse in a film based on another Belbel play which ponders the complexities of life and death. The dystopian discourse that defines the first part of the film reflects postmodern Barcelona as a space of urban malaise. As in Carícies, Pons’ episodic structure presents the viewer with a series of nameless characters who regard one another with either indifference or hostility. Although the city again gains prominence, the urban environment is generally shrouded in darkness and it is neither always clear nor particularly relevant within the specific location in which each scene unfolds. The dark images of Barcelona – Pons opting for black and white to further evoke the hopelessness of emotionally numb characters in the first part of the film – are contrasted by a vivid colour scheme in the second part, where several protagonists manage to avoid the fate that awaited them in the first. The director thus offers a way out of a stifling situation, and in doing so he seems to offer the viewers themselves a vision of a less hopeless future.

Ventura Pons

Morir (o no) (To Die (Or Not), 2000)

Menja d’amor (Food of Love, 2002) and El Gran Gato (2003) show Pons breaking away from his commonly Catalan screened urban map and also paying tribute to the world of music.20 Menja d’amor is based on David Leavitt’s 1998 novel The Page Turner, enabling the cineaste to merge the “lettered and the filmed city.”21 The shooting locations are Barcelona and San Francisco, and an almost solely American cast converses primarily in English throughout the film. As would be the case in Amor idiota, Pons’ following film El Gran Gato also draws a narrative link with Argentina; not only through one main protagonist (renowned Argentine musician Gato Pérez) but also the rumba: the Catalan take on the dance is here paralleled with the Argentine original. In both films Pons thus breaks away from his tendency to situate stories within a specifically Catalan context.

Argentina is brought back to the fore in Amor idiota (Idiot Love), where existential ponderings linger in a fast-paced narrative that unfolds in a generally sophisticated environment; alternatively diurnal and nocturnal. In the film, Barcelona’s transformed post-Olympic cityscape is both embraced and rejected by two main protagonists (Pere-Lluc and Sandra, played by Santi Millán and Cayetana Guillén Cuervo) who momentarily escape urban dread by connecting as lovers; their physical interaction and conversations as fast-paced as life in their surrounding metropolis. The external environment within which this couple make frantic love at every opportunity often comes across as dark and hostile, their body heat is the only warmth to be found in an otherwise cold city. In the subsequent Animals ferits (Wounded Animals, 2006) Barcelona is represented as an almost entirely smooth and sophisticated, (post)modernised urban space. Just like Almodóvar’s representation of Madrid in Volver the same year, Pons’ camera pans across an attractive cityscape where Barcelona’s wealth is visualised in stylish and cutting-edge architecture. The tourist appeal of the city is revealed in images of large hotels and wide avenues accommodating a flow of fancy cars. In the film, the Lisboa family (their surname indicative of Barcelona’s extra-regional connections) resides in a stylish apartment whose artistic décor reflects the family’s high social standing rather than any real interest in art.

Ventura Pons

Animals ferits (Wounded Animals, 2006)

Animals ferits is perhaps Pons’ most consistently multicultural film, reflecting the post-Olympic overhaul that would make Barcelona worthy of the “global gaze cast on her”.22 It again follows an episodic narrative pattern. In an operatic fashion, the plot is divided into individual stories that are revealed as being interrelated. These ultimately interconnected sequences are entitled: 1. Allegra Assai, 2. Moderato Tempo Giusto, 3. Andante Affettuoso, and 4. Finale Rondo. Tutti Quanti, whereby the film is immediately conferred a touch of Italian (and global) sophistication. The plot revolves around four couples from different backgrounds: Claudia (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), although a native Catalan, is said to have Slavic features; Marcia (Cecilia Rossetto) is Argentinian and alternates between Spanish and Italian, spicing up her language with English expressions that supposedly add sophistication to her comments (“pedigree”, “I’m glad to meet you”, “Aquí es nuestra cama kingsize. Con Silvio todo es kingsize.” “Des-estimado para siempre? Forever and ever?”);23 a protagonist with the Russian-sounding name of Irina (Cristina Plazas) is unexpectedly olive-skinned, and the family’s Mexican maid Mariela (Patricia Arredondo) has a Peruvian boyfriend, Jorge Washington (Gerardo Zamora), referred to as both a gay icon and a pleasure-seeking cocaine addict.24 These protagonists all come to the fore in individual episodes where an omnipresent narrator introduces each of them by way of voice-over. At the end, their individual fates overlap as they reconnect at a final narrative crossroads in the final episode Finale Rondo.Tutti Quanti.

Despite the fact that most of these protagonists seem to enjoy relative wealth and survive in a competitive urban environment, they are ultimately unable to fully appreciate what they have: As noted by Daniel (Marc Cartes), “Los catalanes tenemos la especialidad de no apreciar a lo nuestro: somos la envidia de muchos y seguimos en Babia” (“Us Catalans tend not to appreciate what we have: we are envied by many but we fail to even realise”).25 This reflects both Catalonia and Barcelona as the marvel of many; a largely independent region which in its goal to compare itself with other European nations and cities sometimes fails to regard itself with the national pride it deserves. In the film, not only do the protagonists ultimately seem lost in their postmodern city, but they are also unsuccessful in their relationships. At the end, Pons compares them to wounded animals and their urban sophistication turns out to be no more than a façade that hides real personal pain, repressed in order to keep up appearances. The film’s concluding statement appears to address the fate of one of Barcelona’s many Latino immigrants who is compared to an injured animal licking its wounds within the confines of an urban “paradise” whose inhabitants are ironically often more solitary than ever, granting this last scene deeper symbolic significance.

Pons released four films between 2007 and 2009 in rapid succession, two of which are considered masterpieces within his oeuvre: the historically aware Barcelona (un mapa) (Barcelona (a Map)), and Forasters; which also offers a reflection on the past and present. Like La vida abismal (Life on the Edge), Barcelona (un mapa) makes references to Francoist Spain before it anchors the narrative in the global present, the past seeping in through regular flashbacks. The film begins in January 1939, when Nationalist Franco forces entered Barcelona unopposed and actual documentary footage shows an influential Francoist General addressing his audience in a speech welcoming the Catalan surrender to the national cause. Pons employs a number of postmodern techniques in a film that presents Barcelona as a highly postmodern city: both with regard to its post-Olympic architecture and the effect it has on screened citizens not able to fully let go of the past and who are still haunted by the historical trauma of their region. The film becomes an effective dialogue not only between the characters themselves, but also between these characters and their city, and the Catalan past and present.

Ventura Pons

Forasters (Strangers, 2008)

The title of Pons’ next film Forasters (Strangers, 2008) refers to one family in Barcelona seen during two different time periods (forty years earlier and forty years later), and their immigrant neighbours in an urban 1960s residence – at a time when Catalonia was inundated by a wave of mass tourism alongside its financially lucrative industrialisation process. The title also seems to suggest that the very same family members are ultimately strangers also to themselves; engaged as they are in a long identity crisis at a time when Barcelona underwent an ethnic makeover. While, as reflected in the film, Catalans sometimes reacted in a hostile manner to foreigners entering their city, Belbel’s original 2004 play is “not a play about immigration” per se: “It is a play about the fragility of family relations, the passage of time, the meaning of existence, and, above all, the fear and mistrust of what we do not know.”26

A film which – similarly to Barcelona (un mapa) – criss-crosses between the past and present, Forasters is also a story about miscommunication and a lack of empathy and comprehension on a number of levels. Crumbling family matriarch Emma (Anna Lizaran) is dying from cancer and her advancing sickness triggers a tirade of bluntly honest opinions, hurled at her closest family members. Homosexuality is openly rejected when gay son Josep (Dafnis Balduz) is called a weakling, and Emma – restricted by old age and bodily limitations – develops a bitter jealousy towards her young daughter Anna (Aida Oset) about to embark on her first sexual exploration. Additionally, Emma’s husband is forced to promise never to remarry even after she is gone. Accompanying the shift from vibrant present to a comparatively more repressive 1960s past is a colour scheme that changes from vivid to sepia-toned. The film highlights how a transformed Catalan cityscape and society has triggered a number of social and cultural issues not always dealt with constructively. Rather, the changing urban dynamics on screen have a mainly negative effect on the protagonists. In this sense the film contrasts with the considerably more fluid intermingling of cultures in Animals ferits.

In line with the foreign (particularly Moroccan) element in Forasters, A la deriva (Adrift, based on a novel by Lluís-Anton Baulenas) also connects Spain (Barcelona) with Africa (Darfur) and weaves political discourse through a plot that revolves around a love affair between a man and a woman and also between this white woman and Africa.

A la deriva was followed by an absurdist costume drama based on fifteen short stories by Quim Monzó. Mil cretins (A Thousand Fools, 2011) has an epistolary plot revolving around themes of love, old age and death. However, rather than being imbued by social realism, the film is narrated through a sarcastic lens and from a partly mythological perspective. Foolishness becomes a keyword here, in a film developed largely within internal environments and which generally contrasts with the less light-hearted films that make up Pons’ 21st century repertoire. Nevertheless, similarities can be drawn between this film and Amor idiota in particular; they are both tales about foolish human behaviour, Amor idiota being additionally narrated from a first-person perspective.

With Any de Gràcia (Year of Grace, 2012), Pons homages Catalan novelist Mercè Rodoreda in a film set in Barcelona and whose plot can be regarded as a coming of age story of main male character David (Oriol Pla) new to the city. In a timely manner, Pons returned a year later with Un berenar a Ginebra (2013), which visualises Rodoreda’s long conversation in 1973 with literary critic and editor Josep Maria Castellet in Geneva.27 In Spain, the film was first shown as part of the Málaga Film Festival on 25 April, 2013.28

Ventura Pons

El virus de la por (Virus of Fear, 2015)

Ever prolific Ventura Pons has directed four new films since 2015, of which the documentary Cola, Colita, Colassa (Oda a Barcelona) (2015) again pays tribute to Barcelona, cutting back to the past and allowing interviewees to freely comment on the Franco era. In his more current topical adaptation of the play El virus de la por (Virus of Fear), which first screened in September 2016,29, Pons asks what society we really want and reflects on the pros and cons of new modes of communication. Finally, Pons’ most recent film at the time of writing; Oh, quina joia! (Oh, What a Joy!, 2016), brings the viewer back to his more light-hearted comedies. It is to be expected that this director will continue to explore both the past and present in films that engage and provoke a response in viewers both within Spain and abroad.



  • Ocaña, retrat intermitent (1978)
  • Informe sobre el FAGC (1979)
  • El vicari d’Olot (1981)
  • La rossa del bar (1986)
  • Puta misèria! (1989)
  • Què t’hi jugues, Mari Pili? (1990)
  • Aquesta nit o mai (1992)
  • Rosita, Please! (1993)
  • El perquè de tot plegat (1994)
  • Actrius (1997)
  • Carícies (1998)
  • Amic/Amat (1999)
  • Morir (o no) (2000)
  • Anita no perd el tren (2001)
  • Menja d’amor (2002)
  • El Gran Gato (2003)
  • Amor idiota (2004)
  • Animals ferits (2006)
  • La vida abismal (2007)
  • Barcelona (un mapa) (2007)
  • Forasters (2008)
  • A la deriva (2009)
  • Mil cretins (2011)
  • Any de Gràcia (2012)
  • Un berenar a Ginebra (2013)
  • Ignasi M. (2013)
  • Cola, Colita, Colassa (Oda a Barcelona) (2015)
  • El virus de la por (2015)
  • Oh, quina joia! (2016)
  • Sabates grosses (upcoming)


Select Bibliography

Eaude, Michael, Catalonia: A Cultural History (Landscapes of the Imagination) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Fernàndez, Josep-Anton, “The authentic queen and the invisible man: Catalan camp and its conditions of possibility in Ventura Pons’s Ocaña, retrat intermitent,Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 5.1 (2007): pp. 88, 90, and 97.

George, David, Sergi Belbel and Catalan Theatre: Text, Performance and Identity (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2010).

Martí-Olivella, Jaume, “Catalan Cinema: An Uncanny Transnational Performance”, in A Companion to Catalan Culture, Dominic Keown, ed. (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2011).

Resina, Joan Ramon, and Andrés Lema-Hincapié, eds. Burning Darkness: A Half Century of Spanish Cinema (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2008).

Zatlin, Phyllis, “From Stage to Screen: The Adaptations of Ventura Pons,” Contemporary Film Review 17.3 (2007): pp. 439 – 400.



  1. Jaume Martí-Olivella, “Catalan Cinema: An Uncanny Transnational Performance” in A Companion to Catalan Culture, Dominic Keown, ed. (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2011), p. 200.
  2. At the time of writing, Sabates grosses is being filmed, starring renowned Catalan actress Rosa Maria Sardà.
  3. Although in both their interdisciplinary and self-referential structure references are regularly made to a number of both literary and theatrical works, even to some of his own previous films.
  4. David George, Sergi Belbel and Catalan Theatre: Text, Performance and Identity (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2010), p. 23.
  5. La rossa del bar, dir. Ventura Pons, Spain: Els Films de la Rambla S.A. and Laurenfilm, 1986.
  6. Ventura Pons in a televised interview with Isabel Tenaille. TVE, INGT, 7 June. 2001. Digitised 9 January, 2008.
  7. Josep-Anton Fernàndez, “The authentic queen and the invisible man: Catalan camp and its conditions of possibility in Ventura Pons’s Ocaña, retrat intermitent,Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 5.1 (2007): p. 88.
  8. George, p. 26.
  9. Fernàndez, p. 90. Note that “teatrero” in Spanish can also mean “drama queen.”
  10. Ibid, p. 97.
  11. “Catalonia profile”, BBC News Europe, last modified 14 August 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worldeurope-20345073.
  12. Millet also reflects on Catalonia in relation to the rest of Spain, by saying: “We come from Catalan roots, sometimes we have remade ourselves and yes, in here, from this misery, from this common sense and impulsiveness… Sometimes people have to rise up, you have to rise up from biting the dust. We have to reach that point for people to rise up and recover.” Ignasi M., dir. Ventura Pons. Spain: Els films de la Rambla S.A., Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (ICEC), Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA), Televisió de Catalunya (TV3), 2013.
  13. Joan Ramon Resina and Andrés Lema-Hincapié, eds. Burning Darkness: A Half Century of Spanish Cinema (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2008), p. 5.
  14. Ventura Pons, televised interview with Isabel Tenaille. TVE, INGT. 7 June, 2001. Digitised 9 January, 2008.
  15. Phyllis Zatlin, “From Stage to Screen: The Adaptations of Ventura Pons”, Contemporary Film Review 17.3 (2007): p. 439.
  16. Ibid, p. 440.
  17. A similar tendency would later be noticeable also in Morir (o no) and Forasters, where the dystopic elements are achieved through anxiety-ridden angular street shots and fraught family relationships, respectively.
  18. Michael Eaude, Catalonia: A Cultural History (Landscapes of the Imagination) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 191.
  19. Amic/Amat, dir. Ventura Pons, Spain: Els Films de la Rambla S.A., Televisión Española (TVE), Canal+ España, Televisió de Catalunya (TV3), and Generalitat de Catalunya – Departament de Cultura, 1999.
  20. “Ventura Pons recupera la memoria rumbera de Gato Pérez”, El País: Estreno, last modified 17 January 2003, http://elpais.com/diario/2003/01/17/cine/1042758004_850215.html.
  21. Martí-Olivella, p. 199.
  22. Animals ferits, dir. Ventura Pons, Spain: Els Films de la Rambla S.A., Generalitat de Catalunya – Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals (ICIC), Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA), Televisió de Catalunya (TV3), and Televisión Española (TVE), 2006.
  23. Ibid.
  24. The additional focus on a female British tourist at a Costa Brava tourist resort, who gets by in rather limited Catalan, adds a further international feel to this highly contemporary film.
  25. Animals ferits, dir. Ventura Pons, Spain: Els Films de la Rambla S.A., Generalitat de Catalunya – Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals (ICIC), Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA), Televisió de Catalunya (TV3), and Televisión Española (TVE), 2006.
  26. “Forasters”, Catalandrama: Contemporary Catalan Theatre Translations, http://www.catalandrama.cat/theaterpieces/forasters?set_language=en
  27. “Ventura Pons estrena el filme ‘Un berenar a Ginebra’ sobre Mercé Rodoreda,” Epcatalunya.es.europapress, last modified 17 December 2013, http://www.europapress.es/catalunya/noticia-ventura-pons-estrena-filme-berenar-ginebra-merce-rodoreda-20131217200409.html.
  28. “Un berenar a Ginebra”, Oscar Alonso, Noticiashttp://www.venturapons.com/Castella/noticies%20castellano.html.
  29. “‘El virus de la por’, el nou film de Ventura Pons, arriba als cinemes el 18 de setembre”, ara.cat: cultura, last modified 11 September 2015, http://www.ara.cat/cultura/Ventura-Pons-el_virus_de_la_por-cinemes_0_1410459058.html.

About The Author

Jytte Holmqvist is a movie enthusiast with a doctorate in Screen and Media Culture from the University of Melbourne. Her main research interests are Spanish, Catalan, and Italian film which she tends to analyse from a contemporary urban, gender-oriented and global perspective. She is particularly fascinated by the cinematic repertoires of Pedro Almodóvar, Ventura Pons, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Federico Fellini. Dr Holmqvist has established a publishing record and aspires to move into film criticism as a professional field. She lectures in film theory and research methodology at HBU-UCLan School of Media, Communication & Creative Industries, is a certified translator, speaks a number of languages fluently and has travelled extensively. She has lived in six countries to date and is intent on continuing her global explorations.

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