Wild Spain with Michael Portillo – BBC Documentary 1

lammergeier quebrantahuesos

This 48-minute BBC documentary on Spanish wildlife is presented by an unlikely commentator. Michael Portillo, son of an exiled Spaniard and Scottish mother, was a Conservative government advisor who became a Thatcherite MP and cabinet minister. He left politics in 2005 to devote himself to media projects. David Attenborough he ain’t though he does a journeyman’s job of introducing some of the most interesting wildlife of his father’s home country, including the Spanish lynx, the most endangered feline species in the world with only 120-140 examples remaining. He also includes the giant lammergeier vulture that the Spanish call “quebrantahuesos,” “bone breaker,” which drops bones from a height so as to crack them and get to the marrow. Portillo’s best comment: “Picking over the bones of carrion takes me back to the House of Commons.” More…


The Great Spanish Crash, Part 3/4 Reply

Bancaja Valencia disasterThis is the third part of the BBC’s documentary on the Spanish economic crisis. The bulk of this section is a case study of the abuses of just one–perhaps the most egregious, along with Caja Madrid–of the country’s Cajas de Ahorros, as the Spanish regional savings banks were known: Bancaja of Valencia. According to economic historian Jordi Palafox, Bancaja board member from 1998-2006, their board of directors comprised essentially three groups: savers, businessmen who borrowed heavily from the caja to finance their businesses–a clear conflict of interest–and politicians who were financing their own sometimes pharaonic projects with Bancaja money.

The outcome was foreseeable for anyone who had eyes to see. Palafox did see and tried to warn the other members of the board, but to no avail. Ten days after the fall of Lehman brothers on September 15, 2008, in a visit to the New York Stock Market, Spain’s prescient president at the time, José Luis Zapatero, pronounced these resounding words: “Spain has, perhaps, the solidest financial system in the international community…” More…

The Great Spanish Crash, Part 1/4 Reply

Spanish crisis protest

This 15-minute video is the first in a four-part documentary the BBC did in 2012  on the Spanish economic crisis that began in 2008 and continues today. Robert Mason traveled to Spain to investigate how this once thriving economic climate is the latest casualty in the Euro zone. Greece, Ireland and Portugal have the ability to receive massive bailouts with stringent conditions. But Spain differs. Among the largest economies on the planet, for almost 20 years “cool España” meant leading edge architecture, the world’s greatest restaurants and also the magic of Barcelona Soccer club. More…

The Private Life Of A Masterpiece – Goya’s Third of May 1808 (4/4) Reply

Saturn_devouring_sonThe fourth and last part of the BBC’s Goya’s Third of May series brings the story up to our own time, citing examples of contemporary artists inspired by Goya to evoke the horrors of our own wars, beginning with Picasso, whose Spanish Civil War work, Guernika in 1937, was the most important historical painting of the 20th century. This chapter also discusses the Irish artist Robert Ballagh’s emulation of Goya with his Third of May,1970 painting that points up the parallels between the Napoleonic troops in Spain and the British in Northern Ireland.


The Private Life Of A Masterpiece – Goya’s Third of May 1808 (3/4) Reply

Goyas universal victimThis third part of this series opens with the man in white, the victim and ultimate victor of Goya’s Third of May  painting. According to narrator, Samuel West, he is portrayed as super human. Even kneeling he’s larger than his executioners. West highlights the difference between Goya’s rendition of war and those of his contemporaries, whose paintings are tightly packed with figures, color, heroism and glory. Goya gains impact and realism by using few figures surrounded by the desolation of space. “The sky is not sky; it’s blackness,” comments West.


The Private Life Of A Masterpiece – Goya’s Third of May 1808 1/4 Reply

Goya Third May

This curious four-part BBC documentary from 2004 relates Francisco de Goya’s universal masterpiece, The Third of May, to modern examples of martial inhumanity in Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Tiananmen Square, Bosnia and other places. The series, thoughtfully written by Russell Davies and narrated by Samuel West, highlights some of the versions of this painting done by modern artists emulating Goya’s iconic portrayal of The Horror.