José Luis Guerín, Espagne, 2001
In construction documents the building of a new residential area in El Raval, a popular part of the centre of Barcelona. While the site manager directs the placement of a pillar, the director films the digger, ploughing up the ground in close up as it abruptly dislodges the unexpected residents of the space – a collection of cats that sink further into the rubble. This site occupies two roles, it is the workplace of these builders, but it is also a place lived in by a community of residents. A flip in the sequence occurs when the rhythm of the shots comes closer together, and the viewer discovers that the workers that they are watching are actually archaeologists working flat out. The deafening sound of machines fades, the diggers have gone and are replaced with the archaeologists’ fine tools which delicately work on human bones. A hand appears and patiently reveals a skull, as if carved out of the earth. With these precise, attentive gestures, the director’s craft reveals another layer of time, hidden below the surface of the present – the hitherto invisible past life of this place, its history and its memories. Under the skilful hand of Guérin, the archaeologists and the audience discover this at the same time, revealing layers of emotion much like a portraitist painting a picture. First with sound and then with images, we see onlookers and residents of the area who draw closer in and comment on what they’re seeing – over the scientific and technical work of the archaeologists, the chorus of local people speculate somewhat farfetchedly on whose grave this may be and who the bodies may actually be. For a brief moment the dead and the living occupy the same space and seem to be watching each other. If the filmmaker has filmed the exact moment where the Roman cemetery is unexpectedly discovered, it is the work of the editor and how the images are sequenced that establish the chorus like link that joins the temporary inhabitants of the space - the workers and archaeologists - with the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.