The power of a documentary

Ciutat morta. Dead City. That’s the name of the documentary that last January awoke part of the Spanish society and reminded them a case that had been forgotten (if we had ever been aware of it). A documentary that forced society to rethink the role of their leaders, media, and the forces that, they understand, should be there to protect them.

Let’s first put everything into context. February, 4th, 2006, Barcelona. Local police forces dislodge a party at a squatted theatre. During the eviction, a police charge ends up with alleged beatings to some of the people gathered there. One of them, Rodrigo Lanza, states to the cameras: “The only beaten ones were me, Juan (Pintos) and Alex (Cisternas),” the three of them Latin-American. A pot falls from an elevated floor at the theatre and a police officer is left quadriplegic. The three injured, two Chileans and an Argentinian, are taken to a Hospital where, after their injuries have been taken care of, they –who were in the streets and, therefore couldn’t have thrown the pot- are arrested. And so are two other people who, without having ever been close to the theatre, had the misfortune to be at the same hospital’s waiting room.  Their looks make them stand out and they are blamed for having been at the theatre.

One of these two people, Patricia Heras, is the main focus of the film. Passages of her diary, of a blog that she had ironically called Dead Poet, and her friends are part of a movie that conquest us with impeccable aesthetics and rigor. A movie that uncovers a case that questions the whole system of a country. One of Patricia’s friends, Silvia Villuelas, was fired from work the day after the movie was broadcasted due to her participation on it. That’s the extent of the effects the movie had.

All the arrested are tortured and serve sentences for years. On April 26th, 2011, while on parole, Patricia Heras kills herself. Rodrigo Lanza, who served 5 years and two months, remembers the girl who became his partner in this nightmare: “I don’t think prison killed her; suicide is a personal decision. But things would be different today if she had not been involved in this situation. Some people are too noble to live this shit. Some people are just too pure to withstand.”

And she couldn’t take it. And no one in Spain ever talked about it until Xavier Artigas and Xapo Ortega decided to make a documentary that not one TV network was willing to coproduce. A documentary that, despite having been released in 2013, in another squatted theatre to honor those who were involved in the case without a reason, was not broadcasted by the public TV network until last January 17th, 2015. A documentary that got 600,000 people in front of their TV, achieving more than a 20% of share, even when shown at a time and through a channel that didn’t make it seem especially relevant.  As happened with Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, it was expected that Ciutat Morta would reopen the already known as the 4F case. It won’t happen, because the Prosecutor does not consider the film “new legal proof.” However, it has opened the eyes of a big part of this society, it has uncovered this case of arbitrary arrests by the Spanish security forces, and it has entered the all-important list of documentaries that make a difference. Because Ciutat morta will, and has already made a difference.

Watch the entire documentary at:


Article published on the Spanish site of Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t on February 11th, 2015. Original article in Spanish:

Categories: EnglishTags: , , , ,


Journalist and content producer with years of experience in communications and project management in the private sector in Europe, the United States and Latin America.

I have managed communication campaigns and audio-visual productions for top clients including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Commission, Eurocities, VISA, Sony-Ericsson, the Centre for Creative Leadership and DirecTV. As a journalist, I contribute with several media outlets producing content in English and Spanish. I fluently speak English, Spanish and Catalan and have a working knowledge of French and Portuguese.

I am an avid traveler, always ready to jump into a new adventure!

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