the implacable censorship against the cinema of the Second Republic

In 1931, the magazine specialized in cinema
‘Popular Film’
He was pouring out his frustrations about the censorship that the newly established republican regime was perpetrating against the cinema, just at the moment when it seemed that, once the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera (1923-1930) was over, freedom of expression would not would have the slightest obstacle. This was recognized by article 34 of the new constitution, which remained a dead letter in many areas of society.

The publication referred on this occasion to ‘The Battleship Potemkin’ (1925) and ‘October’ (1928), the famous films of the Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein: «This

Russian cinema, so grand and of such high moral value, is the one that we demand. Now, with the establishment of the Second Republic, we believed that its projection would be authorized. But no, it seems that there is an interest in brutalizing the masses with the Yankee films of vampires and thieves ».

It was contradictory that the censorship occurred just at the moment when the cinema became a spectacle of the masses. In 1931, 29 cinemas were advertised on the billboard in Madrid newspapers, such as ABC. In June 1936, shortly before the beginning of the Civil War, there were already 49. «Many historians agree that it is the most popular era of the seventh art in Spain for a very simple reason: illiteracy was above 30% and he had imposed the dubbing. There was a great harmony between the public and the films ”, the historian Román Gubern, whose studies on this subject were pioneering, told this newspaper.

The Republic, under the presidency of Manuel Azaña, came to the conclusion that it was a sector whose message had to be controlled, while giving the population false hope about the titles that they had not been able to see during the dictatorship. Many continued to be banned for political reasons and many others were added to the black list. To these must be added the hundreds who suffered the cutting of scenes, in the same way that newspapers were seized and reports critical of the government’s measures were vetoed from the beginning.

The press

The entry into force of the Law for the Defense of the Republic, on October 22, 1931, outraged many Spaniards. As soon as it came to power, the new regime did not hesitate for a moment to establish censorship and control of the press with this measure inappropriate for a democratic regime.
ABC was, from the first moment, one of its main victims
, as reflected in the forceful editorial of November 30, 1932: “The government suspension of this newspaper has lasted no less than three and a half months, fifteen weeks!”

That was one of the hardest blows to press freedom in the 20th century: the suspension and seizure of more than 100 publications, in a single day, by the president after the uprising of General Sanjurjo. But it was neither the first nor the last. The Law gave the Government the power to prosecute both newspapers and films and everything was based on the interpretation made by the Minister of the Interior of what it meant to attack the Government through freedom of expression. “It cannot but hurt me to see this Republic under the tutelage of the Civil Guard and of an exceptional law,” said Federal Party deputy Eduardo Barriobero in Congress.

The protests of the newspapers grew until the creation of the
League for the Defense of Press Freedom
to which more than 100 headers joined in a first hit and as many later. But the censorship continued. In Ávila, for example, a newspaper was sanctioned for claiming that entry to museums was free on Sundays, which was considered a “campaign against the Republic.” ABC was censored and fined on several occasions for defending its ideas, which was followed by a good number of nationalist, Catholic and whichever newspapers they were.

Left and right

All these measures provided very valuable information about what the authorities considered dangerous or inappropriate between 1931 and 1936. “It is curious that in this aspect there are no differences of interest between the periods of leftist and center-right governments,” say the professors of the Department of History of Social Communication of the Complutense University of Madrid, María Antonia Paz Rebollo and Julio Montero Díaz, in their study on ‘Censored films during the Second Republic’.

In the case of cinema, the number of supervised films increased by an average of 281 works each year. In 1935 the record of tapes that had to pass the competent filter was set, with 1,181. Those that have scenes deleted or titles replaced do not enter here. The films banned during the Second Republic were 58, of which 41 were fiction and 17 were documentaries and newsreels.

They were both Spanish and foreign works that were not allowed to reach theaters because they addressed topics as diverse as the invasion of Abyssinia, the liberation of General Sanjurjo, African customs difficult to understand at the time, electoral issues or information referring to the Spanish Royal Family. This was the case, for example, with the weddings of Doña Beatriz de Borbón and Don Jaime de Borbón y Battemberg, respectively, which could not be seen by the Spanish in theaters.

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