On 30 July 1984, 11 mercury miners went on strike in the mines of Almadén (Ciudad Real, southern Spain) to protest against their precarious economic and social conditions. 650 meters deep inside the oldest and most productive mercury mines in history, the miners endured the dark and contaminated galleries for 11 days and nights until their claims were addressed. As an emigrated filmmaker local to Almadén, I returned to the now post-mining Almadén in 2019 with the idea of making a documentary film project about the mining strike. The premise of the film Encierro (working title) was to find young locals willing to live inside the now-closed mines for 11 whole days, in homage to the former miners and to recreate the experience of 1984, 35 years later. What if 11 people locked themselves inside the mine for 11 days and nights in the present, at a time when Almadén suffers high rates of migration, unemployment and pessimism due to its precarious post-industrial situation? Apart from engaging with our collective mining past, by reenacting the form and duration of an earlier workers strike Encierro proposes the underground as both a living and symbolic space. The aim is to foster a series of conversations, encounters, and social and political propositions to contribute to a process of reimagining Almadén, which rose from these mine shafts more than 2000 years ago, as something other than a mining town. The film’s methodology is to use the past as a ‘documentary score’ and perform it in contemporary socio-cultural conditions, with the intention of intervening in the present and collectively imagining new futures.
Throughout this exposition, I will explore the potential of documentary film fieldwork to take on a different relationship with everyday life than the same or similar events would have as “untransformed reality” – a strike versus the reenactment of a strike – and its potential for activism and social transformation. I will also explore the use of the conditional tense in documentary; a speculative and hypothetical approach to reality that explores the ‘potentially’ real, the ‘possible’, and the ‘what if’ in the process of documenting the world – in short, the potential for acting upon the world when creating, and not only documenting, reality. Encierro, despite belonging to a representational tradition such as documentary filmmaking, strives to move beyond the representational paradigm and become a creative and social intervention in the area. As such, it will explore the social and artistic possibilities, and the tensions that might arise when catalyzing, and not only documenting, reality. Furthermore, my artistic research also poses the question of what if a reenactment of a strike is also a strike, even though in post-industrial Almadén there is no more mining, no production to be shut down, and this would-be strike is not originating from labour action, but from a creative act.