Connivance of political and economic power in Spain
Title: Five square meters
Director: Max Lemcke
Script: Daniel and Pablo Remón
Performers: Fernando Tejero, Malena Alterio, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Manuel Morón and Lola Moltó
Photography: José David Montero
Country and year: Spain, 2011
Duration: 85 minutes
The behind the scenes of real estate scams in democracy have, with "Cinco metrosquare" (2011) by Spanish director Max Lemcke, a tragicomic resolution, through the Stations of the Cross of a young couple wanting to get married and buy their first home. This, within the line of productions such as "El pisito" (1959) by Marco Ferreri, where a Francoist couple wants to make the dream of owning their own home come true, during the housing crisis prior to the economic boom of the sixties.
The film opens with the panoramic views of Benidorm of skyscrapers and housing developments, which emerged before the bursting of the real estate bubble during the financial crisis of 2007 that ended with a paradisiacal place on the Valencian Costa Blanca; and focuses on the conversation between Montañés, a real estate speculator, and Arganda, the corrupt mayor of the town where, with the complicity of officials from the agency in charge of the environment, they want to build the “Señorío del Mar” complex by requalifying an area protected from which, in addition, no sea can be seen: "—Give me the license / —And if they look at it in Environment? / - We are all in Environment, man."
With this dialogue, the two friends settle one more dirty business in the long chain of projects carried out jointly from fraud and collusion with the collaboration of the leading sectors. Something that the great recession of 2007-2008 demonstrated, when the State financed the recovery of banks and investment funds that had speculated with the money of small savers, but did not help savers themselves.
The film focuses on the dark practices of these individuals, the legal obstacles introduced by them to prevent a judicial hearing of the affected buyers and the disintegration of the couple, as a result of family pressures and the lack of a place to live. A place already destined for failure, as the structure of the buildings under construction is being made with defective materials. “This is not concrete or anything. This is adulterated ”, declares another of the owners who, as a technical engineer of public works, is reviewing the foundations the day when Alex and Virginia go with her parents to see the progress of the construction, in a scene reminiscent of the series television program "Here there is no one who lives" (2003-2006), where the actors who embody the couple in crisis worked, and who recounted the problems in a tenement house from the comedy.
The camera will stop here on the structures of the complex, abandoned by builders and workers, like useless skeletons and condemned to be demolished; Although one of the salesmen of the project will assure Alex that "the structure is phenomenal" when he goes to the company to claim, and he will ask for another 13.000 euros in order to continue with the business, already truncated, because in the next visit Young people will find out that the Environment has closed the work because it claims to have found a lynx prowling the place. But the circumstances point better towards the strategy of wanting to hide their responsibility in the embezzlement and prevent a judicial investigation of their illegal compromises.
“—The work has stopped / —I have a bad ass that works stop me / —They are going to take things out / —What things / —The things / —Old things, you say / —Old things, new things, all the things / —Who do you have in the Environment? " The two business gangsters talk again, seeking to use their political contacts in the Administration to avoid responsibilities and silence the victims. Although the film does not stop at the results of such approaches, it is inferred that they were positive as there is no investigation regarding this or other group businesses.
Then another instance of corruption is observed in the upper echelons that, as “La Cordillera” focused on, remain in impunity and the most absolute secrecy, protected by the legality of the rule of law where, however, the same mechanisms are put into operation tainted by autocracies. This entails a loss of institutional credibility, undermining the democratic bases and igniting the protests of the people demanding transparency.
However, Lemcke's film will further cloud these aspirations, when it shows how speculators will seek to fix the impasse with scammed buyers, by offering them other apartments in order to get rid of them and that previous embezzlements are not discovered, thus being able to preserve them. a screen of respectability and trust. But this "simulacrum of truth" will not convince those who want to legally confront this situation marked by ambiguity, falsehood and the apparently legal theft of their money with diabolical premeditation and treachery. In fact, the houses offered by the construction company, in superblocks without views and terrible finishes, will be rejected by the group, in order to carry out a lawsuit against the company.
By hiring a lawyer and going to court, scammed buyers will find themselves face to face with the labyrinthine structure of the Spanish judicial system, which has been repeatedly called into question, never better said, by plaintiffs and the media, given its closeness with those who are part of the political, social and economic elites. The backstage of the system, where power groups influence many resolutions to bring them to their land and be favored, will act once again against the public, recognizing the sudden change of legal headquarters of the construction company, made with the aim of no need to show up or respond to charges. The legal costs of starting the process again will discourage the group, leaving them in the hands of the scammers who, protected by the compromises of a flawed system, will now offer them a few thousand euros, confronting them there with the reality of having lost everything.
Thus, on a small scale, the ruin of savers, taxpayers and new owners is repeated due to the financial speculation of 2008, in which the Government cynically asked families and banks to "tighten their belts, austerity and respect for the taxpayer's money." When it was too late The speculative economics that led to the loss of those savings and, in many cases, homes bought with subprime mortgages during the housing bubble, was saved by generous institutional bailouts, but those left with nothing mostly never returned. find work and therefore could not rebuild their finances or save their homes.
This further strengthened the links between the State and companies and banks, to the detriment of the common citizen. "The agenda of a former president of the Government, of a former minister, is very valuable for a bank, because it gives you contacts, it allows you to make money in lobbying", he points out, in the documentary "My savings, your booty" (2012) , a journalist specialized in the economic issue, synthesizing the symbiosis of the power groups that, in unison, stamp the boot against the people, crushing their hopes for a better standard of living while they continue to enrich themselves.
In a system like Spain's where the economy is centralized, the free market stops working and government interventions are what drives companies, guaranteeing them a sustained profit margin in good times and keeping them afloat during periods of recession. . And if, as in the case of the real estate agency in the film, certain state officials endorse their dealings with the connivance of some judicial magistrates, then there will be little chance people will have to keep what they have struggled to obtain. In fact, Alex will end up losing his job, his girlfriend and his house, being, like so many others, at the mercy of depression and despair.
“When we were starting out, back in 2007-8, the brick crisis had not yet broken out and we simply began to read in the press about some cases of affected people that were taking place. Then it seemed to us that we could tell something current that was not being shown in the cinema ”, explains the director, who began to plan the film after reading the news of a man living in a garage after having lost the address that went with his position parking.
A sample then of the difficulties that Spaniards went through then and, despite the disaster produced by the crisis, between 2015 and 2019 house prices spiked again, as a result of the aggressive action of national and international investors seeking to obtain a high return on capital often obtained fraudulently. This, however, was not taken into account by banks, credit institutions and real estate companies, who saw in this injection of liquid money an excellent opportunity to get rich again, inflating the market and putting people in even more debt.
"Come by the bank tomorrow to see if we can get dental insurance for you," a friend suggests to Alex when he asks for a loan, in order to take advantage of the situation to sell him a product, overwhelming him with one more obligation at a time when he was still paying the down payment and the monthly payments of a house that was never going to be finished, in a market where many houses had no buyer and were, precisely, in the hands of the banks and government financial institutions guilty of the recession.
"I'm a fucking shit because I don't have a husband or a house or anything ... that's why I'm working ten hours a day," she complains to Alex Virginia, in the hotel room where they have moved after spending a month living with the parents, and from which he will finally leave to return to them, by abandoning the wedding plans and leaving Alex alone in the hopeless situation where both will end up losing because it will destroy their plans for the future. "I'm forty-three years old. They have screwed up my life ”, recognizes another of those affected by the scam, echoing a reality that equally brings together groups of different ages and origins, putting them before the dilemma of moving forward but without really knowing where
The uncertainty about tomorrow, as a constant of this contemporaneity, has become more acute given the deep social inequality that the political and financial structures have caused in the new millennium, bringing more violence, poverty and intolerance. Terrorism, ethnic cleansing, religious fanaticism, the destruction of the ecosystem, new viruses, the reappearance of diseases that seemed to have been eradicated, are coupled with the lack of prospects. This produces the stagnation of society and, consequently, influences the increase in discontent with the way in which the power groups have managed their interests, leading to civil disobedience, as a political act against the politicians themselves, whose actions have brought with them the rejection of people, polarizing them even more and confronting them ideologically at a crossroads of great cultural anxiety.
The loss of respect for the institutions, having failed to represent the interests of the collective, has driven the global demonstrations that, since 2019, have as a common denominator the collapse of economic growth with serious consequences for the development of countries, especially in the most neglected regions. This has undermined confidence in the idea of progress, putting the majority in a situation of extreme precariousness, while the remaining one percent has ended up controlling approximately half of the world's wealth.
This overwhelming discord in the age of unlimited and instant connections has brought people together, leading them to demonstrate en masse against the intolerances resulting from such disparity. Government repression has been fierce in the autocracies, although many democratic countries have also tried to silence them under pressure from influential sectors; especially that of transnational capital, whose ascendancy in State affairs is very far reaching in Latin America, as was observed with “La cordillera”.
"Five Square Meters" addresses these issues, from the solo performance of Alex who, driven by frustration and rage, kidnaps the mobster businessman guilty of his misfortunes, and stops him by leaving him against one of the columns of the structure where he had deposited his illusion to build a future as a couple. This tragicomic turn of the screw, in which the victim takes the place of the perpetrator, in a certain way constitutes an act of poetic justice, at least for the duration of the chimera, making amends to the member of the neglected majority and aggravating those who belong to the group. minority in control. Something that reality seldom allows, since the boot of José Martí's "giant of seven leagues" is today an international conglomerate of capitals, with a power greater than that of the countries where it has its headquarters, and it ruthlessly treads on the destinies of the great majority refused, however, to remain silent.
“If I look back, I have tried that mine had the basic things, no luxury (...). What I want to tell you, Adolfo, is that I am a man, that I am not an animal (...). Why don't I have my home? ”, Alejandro snaps at the speculator as he ties him up, condensing the feelings of the collectives, on the warpath against the astronomical enrichment of a few at the cost of the sacrifice of many, and against the policies of the State and the corruption of some of its representatives.
The last scene, with Alejandro on a patrol in solidarity accompanied by Virginia, on a panoramic view of the skeleton of “Señorío del Mar” about to fall under the workers' pickaxe, encompasses the set of anguishes and paradoxes of the new millennium; Well, if, on the one hand, the judicial and governmental systems sanction the minor offender, on the other, they protect the great swindler even though the proof of his pillage is in full view, igniting the warlike instincts of those who have no future prospects. Something that in Spain has had violent ramifications, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country where the urban guerrilla has destabilized national life and has confronted the population within and outside regional borders.
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