DEMOCRACY: With 80% of the Catalan population in favour of holding a mutually agreed referendum, the discussion is not who would win, but why is voting still not allowed?

Marc Molas
Marc Molas
Catalan music producer and cultural activist.
Published date: May 13, 2019

And With a Smile, the Revolution!

(Avec un sourire la revolution!)

Alexandre Chartrand

Alexandre Chartrand Eric Piccoli Marco Frascarell Philippe Allard Félix Rose

Canada, Spain

«With the October 1st referendum results, Catalonia has won the right to be an independent state. And it won the right to be heard and respected. At this historic moment, as head of the Catalan government, I hereby formally present the results of the referendum to Parliament and to our fellow citizens: the people’s mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic.» – Carles Puigdemont, Former President of the Government of Catalonia.

With simplicity, emotion and steadfast factual adherence, director Alexandre Chartrand and team accompany us on a journey through the heart of Catalonia, reliving the events leading to the self-determination referendum of October 1, 2017. In front of the camera, the streets are teeming with people who gather, talk, organise, disobey, and teach their children how to defend their dignity and rights.

But the mobilisation did not start in 2017. The pro-Independence movement took shape 9 years ago, becoming a consistent wave resonating with growing sectors of the Catalan society ever since. At the same time, the movement attunes people around basic common ideals: human rights, democracy, pacifism, direct action, self-determination, popular organisation, and assembly.

The Catalan independence movement has found its most populous foothold in the Spanish State’s fundamental lack of democratic tradition and sore disrespect for the people. Contrary to common belief, the Catalan independence movement is not particularly nationalistic. With 80% of the Catalan population in favour of holding a mutually agreed referendum, the discussion is not who would win, but why is voting not allowed?

Contrary to common belief, the Catalan independence movement is not particularly nationalistic.

Thoroughly immersed in the effervescent days of autumn 2017, Chartrand dissects the Catalan self-determination operation, portraying a transversal, peaceful and popular grassroots movement – not by chance named «The Smile Revolution». With access to crucial personalities – politicians, artists, and social leaders – the film manages to portray Catalan society in depth during these convulsive moments.

Marked by authoritarianism

It is difficult not to empathise with the Catalans. The film is full of smiling, happy people. They are non-violent, organised, and occupy a space belonging to them: the public space.

But even though Catalans are mature and well-organised people, every attempt at emancipation seems unavoidably plagued by adolescent mistakes. The film’s narrative arc transports us from the hopes of a society who wants to be better – who understands and explains itself in modern terms – to the painful surprise in discovering how uplifting songs and smiles are not powerful enough before those who own the tools of repression.

It is difficult not to empathise with the Catalans.

The Spanish State is marked by authoritarianism, by the acknowledgment of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship as the restorer of the Bourbon Monarchy over the ashes of the Spanish Republic, and it does not seem willing to subside. There is an increasingly forthright adherence to fascist National-Catholicism, which is obvious in King Felipe VI primetime public television statements celebrating the State’s security forces violence against defenseless and peaceful people.

No one in Catalonia expected the bitter and gratuitous brutality of these forces and, under closer scrutiny, even fewer currently share its actions. European MPs, intellectuals, and politicians from all over the world consider the trials against political prisoners as totally unacceptable, and the use of force – resulting in over 1000 injured civilians – in Catalonia as disproportionate. The images collected from those fateful hours should be a slap in the face of any reasonable person.

Refusing dialogue

This film is an essential document in understanding the tenacity and vigour of the Catalan people’s claims. It is also a bare exposé of the Spanish State for all to see – demonstrating the true face of the only fascist dictatorship that avoided purging.

catalonia_smile_revolution_2

It is not a coincidence that the prosecution against the political prisoners is headed by VOX – an openly Francoist, xenophobic, and misogynist party. This same party, which calls for 25 year prison sentences just for having a popular vote, while also imprisoning people for over a year without trial, speaks blatantly of expelling tens of thousands of Africans, repealing protections for battered women, equality laws, and protections for the LGBT collective … and maintains Franco was not a dictator! With trials against the referendum’s «leaders» – one organised with no leadership – currently underway and occurring in such a fashion, they are sure to be discussed in law universities for years to come.

As And With a Smile, the Revolution points out, the refusal for dialogue on the part of the Spanish State has been unwavering. The answer is – as always – more repression.

Uplifting songs and smiles are not powerful enough before those who own the tools of repression.

The appearance of modern democracy in Spain is dismantled. The festive spirit – peaceful, cheerful, full of dignity, a bit naïve – can prove to be the most effective strategy in appealing to the shame and responsibility of democrats and good people but has little to come up with against an authoritarian body that does not obey fundamental rights and public treaties.

And yet, it is very likely this strategy of asserting and collecting grievances – turning the other cheek – might be the best course of action from all the bad-to-worse options at hand; certifying the attitude and determination of the Catalan people and – as the 130th president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont suggests in the film’s opening – its right to be heard and respected.


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Modern Times Review