by Thomas Fouet
by Thomas Fouet
Paying close attention to activism, workers’ movements, faces, and the way that words spread, Contadores is the ideally minimalistic reenactment of a bygone era. Without any moralistic agenda, he brings back to life and chronicles a major shift in workers’ history, set in the unique era in Spanish history that are the post-Franco years: after a few years that seemed to bear the wild promise of change - not only that of work relations, but of the whole social construct - the balance of power towards employers is restored. And as the factory workers walk off-screen, the audience is left with a heavy heart.
Interview with Irati Gorostidi Agirretxe
The idea for Contadores came about after a research project that I am developing on a key moment in the recent history of Spain, the period known as "the transition". It took place at the end of the 70's when Spain went from 40 years of dictatorship to the current system.
The film is set in an area of the province of Gipuzkoa where a strong industrial fabric developed during Franco's regime and focuses on the autonomous organization of the workers' movement in the 70s. For a few years, large social majorities adopted self-organized forms of struggle. Autonomous groups known as “Komiteak” (the committees) emerged in the factories and neighborhoods.
Towards the end of the 70s, with the legalization of political parties and unions, these forms of autonomous organization gradually lost support. A large part of the population saw institutional politics as a more effective way to defend their rights and influence labor policies. Added to this was the early recession of the 80s, and the growing influence of the armed organization ETA, which many saw as a more efficient way to achieve their political goals. In these new circumstances, self-organized forms of social movement lost popularity to the point of dilution. So much so that there is hardly any trace of their history.
The protagonists of Contadores are inspired by those who defended these forms of organization beyond a temporary juncture, for whom the arrival of the transition was a moment of enormous disappointment. The intention of the film was to recover that experience of disappointment as a perspective from which to represent that historical moment.
For this I have worked with people who were part of the movement and who have joined me in the research process (among them my parents and their companions). In addition to being historical advisors, they have also been part of the cast. I deployed and shared historical documents gathered during the research with the cast and crew, and we debated and workshopped them together. The creation of the film has been a form of collective inquiry and every aspect of the production has helped to deepen our notion of the moment.
I remember a very beautiful anecdote that can illustrate this idea : a conversation the production designer and I had with my father and a companion.
We were dressing the apartment with their help and that process contributed immensely to adding complexity to our idea of the historical moment. Each small detail symbolically represented an intention of rupture : a mattress on the floor that serves as a bed, and a sofa or the piles of books on shelves made of bricks in what would have originally been a master bedroom for a married couple and was now adapted into a meeting space. Same applies to the process of understanding the mechanism of the multi-copier with which they printed the pamphlets. The production of the film has been full of beautiful moments of discoveries like these.
I am currently developing a feature film based on the same research : Anekumen. In the second part of the film, some members of the committee decide to join a commune. Contadores has been an exceptional way to start sketching the visual universe and the characters of the feature film, and above all to discover the potential of this methodology to approach and rethink history.