A Film by Kacper Lecki
I was drawn to filmmaking in Madrid because it seemed like a perfect opportunity to see the city through a new lens. Before embarking on this journey, I visited Spain on multiple occasions as a tourist. Yet, apart from seeing beautiful architecture and museums, I had solely superficial interactions. This project was an opportunity to explore the culture and community of Madrid more in-depth.
I had a couple of ideas regarding the topic of the documentary. All of them were connected in one way or another to the sense of community and belonging so important in the times of the COVID pandemic. Additionally, the form of city symphony was brought to my attention. Although it is one of the oldest documentary genres, it was new to me. I found the minimalism and attention to detail very appealing and, therefore, decided to explore the possibility of making the film in this manner.
The church that became the subject of the documentary allowed me to combine human interdependence, lots of sounds to play with to create a symphony, new COVID challenges, and an overarching message I wanted to convey. It is the only Catholic church in Madrid with Mass celebrated in English and Spanish. This appeals to both older Spaniards as well as young immigrants who just arrived in Madrid. When I attended both services I was shocked at how different they were. It reminded me of the ongoing debate between modernism and traditionalism in the Church. This allowed me to show the problem through my personal perspective that people, not only in the Church, are very similar on a fundamental level and tend to overestimate the differences between them sometimes leading to conflicts. After all, I believe humankind should be united by similarities and enriched by differences.
The structure of the movie was designed to highlight exactly this stance. Starting from the point of entering the same church and using the most popular prayer in Christianity, although in different languages, shows the uniformity of the celebrations. Later, the ways of worship seem to diverge. Despite using the same words the accompanying tone and postures of participants emphasize the differences. Yet, those differences are not significant from the fundamental point of the faith. The excerpt from the sermon is supposed to bring the attention back to what is important in the religion – love. Additionally, it serves as a tool to show that the problem of focusing on differences rather than similarities is ubiquitous in society. It brings the universal and timeless message to the film being centered around a single point in spacetime. The last part of the movie is the interplay/conversation between the Masses highlighting the uniformity in arguably the most fundamental part of the Catholic faith – Liturgy of the Eucharist.
What made the filmmaking journey special for me was the community in the church. Everyone was very welcoming and approachable. When the health restrictions started to get stricter, people quickly organized streaming the Mass online so that everyone could still participate. Additionally, there was a group chat allowing believers to exchange thoughts, prayers, and even discuss everyday events. As an outsider, I immediately felt the warmth of the community.
The greatest challenge that appeared throughout making the film was the health restrictions. Most people already got used to maintaining distance, having masks on, and sanitizing their hands often. Yet, the filmmaking process required additional precautions. The only recording device that I could use was my phone. Although it had a familiar interface, getting clips of high-quality required a lot of playing around. Furthermore, what impacted the project the most was getting confined to a “sanitary zone” at the midpoint of the semester. This not only limited the material available but also disabled the possibility of any retakes. The silver lining is that I grasped how to extract the best out of the seemingly terrible footage.
Apart from the technical and filmmaking skills, I learned a lot about the church and diverse communities of Madrid. I cannot imagine a better way to engage meaningfully with the city and its inhabitants. This journey allowed me to interact with various people, coming from diverse backgrounds, and with very interesting histories and personal relationships with Madrid. Everyone I met was bringing something new to the table. One could get interesting insights about the city, culture, and language from people who spent decades in Spain as well as those who arrived a couple of days ago. I am glad I had the opportunity to meet so many of them through this project. The journey was short and intense but undoubtedly the memories will stay with me for a long time.