25 years ago most films were seen on a big screen, and most writings on cinema appeared in newspapers and magazines (printed, as one should add today). Film critics were the guys who got paid for having an opinion about films, and if they didn’t spend their time in dark rooms they amused themselves at the beaches of Cannes and other exotic places.
Still 25 years ago, in particular colleagues from Eastern European countries enjoyed the newly found freedom to travel west. Spanish critics made in the 80s friends with their colleagues from all over the world, via the Associació Catalana de Crítics i Escriptors Cinematogràfics. The association became quickly part of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics and umbrella organization of national groups.
With a certain envy we in the rest of the world looked at the Catalan Association’s luxurious name: While we were journalists, critics at best, our Spanish colleagues were “escriptors” what we, hopefully not too wrong, translated as writers, authors. Indeed not few of them were universitarians and could do something what we ordinary colleagues could never achieve but did always dream of: to spend more time on texts as the daily business would permit, to work more profound, to do a more efficient research, to think longer.
It is this creative atmosphere which initiated in the 90s a real crazy project, the twelve volumes of a complete history of cinema (Historia General del Cine) which became probably the most comprehensive film history in Spanish language.
When Catalan critics founded the association which by the way had from the beginning the ambition to be not only a Catalan but also a Spanish body – when they founded it, Pedro Almodóvar had already made a considerable career.That he became an internationally acclaimed filmmaker belongs, at least to a certain degree, to the credits also of critics – as well as the discovery of Victor Erice, Pilar Miró, José Luís Guerín or the “Barcelona School” of the 80s has been supported and fostered by Spanish critics. The association even helped foreign critics to get the Catalan cinema better known, by arranging a series of film screenings in Barcelona after the festival of San Sebastian – a rare and useful initiative which unfortunately from financial reason could not be continued.
The writing on cinema has changed in these 25 years. Also the cinema has changed. Films left the big screen, they can be seen at home. The Internet allows the publication of some extraordinary texts, but it also ruins all standards of writing, of arguing, of discussion. The critic seems to be less necessary than ever, in particular in regard of the increasing offer of film entertainment.
As a consequence, the profession of a film critic passes through rather big changes. This does however not mean that the old standards and values, the esthetical points of view, the profound knowledge of film historywould not be requested anymore. Opposite: They are more necessary than ever.
The Associació Catalana de Crítics i Escriptors Cinematogràfics stands for these standards. For the past 25 years, and, hopefully, also for the next 25 years.