The legacy of quinqui cinema

Quinqui cinema has a narrative that is both raw and artificial, challenging and devastating, apparently abandoned in time and in the history of Spanish cinema, but nonetheless current. The Vallecas damdirected by Eloy of the Church and recently answered on a well-known platform streamingis a clear exponent of this cinematographic genre opposite to the police and closer to the adventures of bandits or thieves, but without the epic of a Robin Hood, nor the finesse of the thieves of Ocean or The Italian Jobnor initiation journeys with redemption and reward as in the great piracy stories. A genre that popularized a supposedly traditional account of the youth precariousness of the 70s and 80s of the last century while constructing a version made in Spain from the business of exploitation cinema series B.

Unforgettable is that sequence where Doña Justa was shooting at the robbers inside her own tobacco shop, half possessed by the Fast and deadlyafter knocking out an undercover cop with a flowerpot. Or the other one in which the four protagonists talked and drank Anís del Mono while listening to Sighs of Spain and in which Leandro said that “there is only one Spain”, to which Tocho responded “that, if there were two, we would all go to the other one”.

The cinema quinqui, or the quinqui exploitation —what would you say? Rafael Robles Gutierrez—, was forged around the figure of young antiheroes, “tall boys” with no future, glued to the asphalt and the unbridled speed of hunger, heroin and a Seat 124. Its staging was that of the shanty towns, the “cheap houses”, the vacant lots, the blocks with aluminosi and fibrocement and the slums like Otxarkoaga, in Bilbao, Torre Baró or Camp de la Bota, in Barcelona, ​​La Mina, in Sant Adrià del Besòs or San Blas and El Pozo del Tío Raimundo, in Madrid. Neighbourhoods whose neighbourhood struggle survives, despite the lack of generational change, because the testamentary precariousness of Francoist developmentalism persists crisis after crisis as an intergenerational inheritance fuelled by unfulfilled political promises and frustrated desires for transformation.

Quinqui cinema transformed aporophobia and the criminalization of impoverished and vulnerable youth into a mass consumption product without assuming a true class perspective or politicizing the discourse.

Although with certain pretensions of cinema verité and neorealism, quinqui cinema was born as a clandestine and pariah genre within the film industry of its time, perhaps, or precisely, due to the exploitation it made of those subaltern subjects who, seeing a possible way out of marginality in the audiovisual world, became squeezed objects while the pop phenomenon lasted.

This utilitarian exploitation anchored in the criminalization of youth, vulnerability and exclusion, made money with the view voyeur about the borderization of the lives of those who inhabited—and inhabit—those peripheries, sometimes anomalous and located in the center of the city, marked by youth unemployment and learned helplessness.

Victor Matellanoin his book Spanish Exploitation. Sex, blood and bulletsdefines this use and abuse as “a whole exploit “The adventures and misadventures of marginalized teenagers become a genre exploited by Spanish cinema. In most cases with the exclusive purpose of making box office, only wasting sensationalism, action, sex and drug addiction in an explicit way.” A paradigmatic case can be found in the figure of the actor amateur Jose Luis Manzanostar of hits like Navajos, Peak o ColleaguesDiscovered by Eloy de la Iglesia and after a brief love affair with fame, Manzano died in 1992, at just 29 years old, in absolute ostracism.

The feminist film analysis of the character of Angela in ‘Deprisa, deprisa’ is indebted

We could say that quinqui cinema transformed aporophobia and the criminalization of impoverished and vulnerable youth into a mass consumer product without assuming a true class perspective or politicizing the discourse to even outline a critique of the predatory political and economic system that placed children at the crossroads between misery and resignation or resistance and evasion, channeled through the knife and the needle. These films said little or nothing about resilience and other possibilities of collective organization in the neighborhoods, further stereotyping the future possibilities for thousands of children in our cities in the late Franco era and the first years of democracy.

What was performative about that cinema in the imagination of later generations? What seeds of change did it leave in the cinematic narratives of the 90s and early 2000s? Why did female filmmakers not find in quinqui cinema an umbrella under which to shelter a different, more complex and critical discourse? These are questions for which I have not found an answer and which I raise after reviewing titles such as Stray dogs (which also had its feminine version years later), The last blows of El Torete o Me, “The Heifer” of Jose Antonio de la Loma; Peakby Eloy de la Iglesia himself; the films of Vicente Aranda about “The Lute” o Hurry, hurryof Carlos Saurato give some examples of the genre.

“The carousel of sex and crime fascinated millions of Spaniards who grew up watching the NODO harangues. Through ideological militancy or as an excuse to show off their muscles, the quinqui genre cinematically exorcises the forms that corresponded to a period of emergence of the image of urban marginality, counterculture and explicitness in Spain,” he explains. Mery Cuestaart critic and curator of the exhibition ‘Quinquis of the 80s. Cinema, press and street’.

Some films allow us to outline an imaginary where transgression and the oldest archetypes of saints and whores intermingle, generating hybrid, grotesque and challenging narratives.

In this feature of “showing cacha”, it is worth asking about the role that women played within quinqui cinema, a role – it cannot be ignored – that was closely linked to the one that women also occupied in the so-called “destape” cinema and that the history of Spanish cinema itself and television reruns have made invisible. Titles such as Those who start at fifteen years old o The rapists of dawn (both directed by Ignacio F. Iquino in 1978), Wonders (Manuel Gutierrez Aragon, 1980), Never during school hours (José Antonio de la Loma1978) o Barcelona South (Jordi Cadena1981) allow us to outline an imaginary where transgression and the oldest archetypes of saints and whores intermingle, generating hybrid, grotesque and challenging narratives on issues that are still central to the feminist agenda today, such as prostitution, sexual violence, child abuse, the relationship between the feminization of poverty and drug addiction, deprivation of liberty, heteronormativity or representations of the feminine in relation to criminality. Much to our regret, there is still much to be said and analyzed from the feminist perspective about this “homegrown” version of exploitation cinema.

Quique San Francisco was another of the recurring actors in quinqui cinema.

Interesting could be, for example, an approach from the deconstruction of hegemonic masculinity to the scene of Navajos in which The Marquis, played by a very young Quique San Franciscoencourages Jaro’s rape amidst the laughter of his “henchmen” – although the aggression itself is hidden by a clever temporal ellipsis, a resource rarely used in the case of women – and the subsequent mass revenge.

And the feminist film analysis is also indebted to the character of Angela (Berta Socuéllamos) in Hurry, hurryand those silent close-ups with a lost gaze in front of Pablo’s dying body, and his sure steps with a sports bag on his shoulder with the money from the last stick, getting lost in the night in the sound fade between the screams of the children and the I stay with you of The Chunguitos.

With the disappearance of quinqui cinema as a genre limited to a very specific moment in our history, we must and can ask ourselves about its legacy: what point of view and what audiovisual fiction stories do we find today about social exclusion in Spain? What has changed and what remains? Who would the “quinquis” be today? What other axes of discrimination now run through economic precariousness that were not taken into account or were not so noticeable 40 years ago? Has there been any progress towards self-representation and stories of memory and denunciation?

Perhaps recent films, also starring women, come to mind, such as Roof and food (Juan Miguel del Castillo2015) o The daughter of a thief (Belen Funes2019) and some previous ones like Barrio (Fernando Leon of Aranoa1998) o Dance the water for me (Josetxo San Mateo2000). And, although it is not a homogeneous leitmotiv nor does it form a genre of its own, we can see that the view has become more complex, although there are still many inertias and silences that these films drag along. But what more can we ask of cinema about the representation of precariousness in the peripheries, in disadvantaged communities, beyond mere visibility without sensationalism and without turning it into a safari through poverty as a denunciation? Darren McGarvey?

Judith Butler offers some clues in Frames of War: The Lives Cried For when she explains that “if we want to broaden social and political claims regarding the rights to protection, persistence and prosperity, we must first rely on a new bodily ontology that involves rethinking precariousness, vulnerability, damageability, interdependence, exposure, bodily persistence, desire, work and claims regarding language and social belonging.”

Rethinking lives on the edge of the peripheries today in the imperfect light of the quinqui cinema of that time allows us to begin to glimpse demands that have remained in force for decades and other violations of rights that that cinema – more utilitarian than social – only managed to point out without daring to get involved. We will have to continue pulling the thread and do so from the unavoidable challenge of the knowledge and struggles of anti-racism, of the LGTBIAQ+ movements, of anti-capacitism…, from the narratives of those who have forged their vision on the margins, also from the official story of the audiovisual industry.

This analysis was published in the yearbook number 9 of Picara Magazinewhich you can buy in our store online.
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