Simfonies de ciutat

The aim of this project is to create a collection of audiovisual pieces that form a series of urban visions through the eyes of different filmmakers. To see and analyse the urban space on a journey through personal and authorial itineraries, each of which will generate a different vision of the city.

Rather than describing the city, these titles capture the spontaneous theatricality of everyday life and the contradictions of urban space and its use. Our approach to this series takes the form of a diary in the first person, like a notebook in which the filmmaker collects his or her reflections and emotions with regard to their city.

An observational study of the city through each author’s personal aesthetic treatment. Each piece takes a different view that might be voyeuristic, poetic, ironic… and invites us to reflect on such universal themes as time, everyday life, the destruction or construction of spaces, non-places, and so on.

We have the early 20th century antecedent of City Symphonies, when movies tackled the theme of the city in a way that scrutinised and projected ideas, where it was not so much a case of reflecting a writer’s script as it was about observing and recording life as it is and only later drawing conclusions from the observations. That gave rise to such works as Manhatta (1921) by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, Rien que les Heures (1926) by Alberto Cavalcanti, Rain (1929) by Joris Ivens, Rennsynphonie (1928) by Hans Richter, À Propos de Nice (1930) by Jean Vigo and Douro, Faina Fluvial (1931) by Manoel de Oliveira, and the especially well-known examples of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) by Walter Ruttmann and Man with a Movie Camera (1929) by Dziga Vertov.

This project is more inspired by the city film movement that arose in the US in the 1960s and continued until the late 20th century, offering fragmentary, voluntarily subjective and partial descriptions of city life. We’re talking about films like Street, (1952) by Helen Levitt, Scotch Tape (1959-1962) by Jack Smith and The Whirled (1956-1963) by Ken Jacobs. Another important example would be the private portraits of cities by Jem Cohen, and the unique observation of public space presented by Victor Kossakovsky in Tishe!

Seven filmmakers were approached for this first year of the project, who have filmed the city of Barcelona and other parts of its metropolitan area. The seven films were chosen to offer a platform to both consolidated and emerging filmmakers, working in collaboration with the Dones Visuals professional group.

-Àngela Martínez
Head Audiovisual Service CCCB