Wednesday, January 18, 2023


 Author Javier Ramos Altamira


El Campello (Alicante)


Received on September 9, 2022

Accepted on November 29, 2022

Throughout the history of cinema in Spain, many sets have been built and later destroyed. One of the best examples would be that of the gigantic sets erected by Samuel Bronston in Las Matas (Madrid), where so many blockbusters were filmed (55 Days in Beijing, The Fall of the Roman Empire, etc.) and which disappeared in the early 1990s. 70.

However, there are also quite a few sets that have stood the test of time. And if we take stock of those that remain, we see that a large majority belong to a film subgenre that was successful in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s: the spaghetti-western.

Some of these sets are maintained quite well, thanks to their reuse for tourist purposes or filming, as is the case with the three towns in Almería (Oasys, Mini Hollywood and Western Leone) or in Gran Canaria (Sioux City). There are some cases in which it has also been preserved thanks to private initiative, as is the case with the Sad Hill cemetery (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) in Burgos.

However, unfortunately, most of the sets that are still standing today are in a dilapidated state or have practically disappeared. Some examples of this would be the remains of the city of Flagstone (Once Upon a Time in the West) in Granada, the towns to the west of Madrid (Hoyo de Manzanares, Colmenar Viejo and Daganzo), or the fort of El Cóndor (El Cóndor), Also in Almeria.

Taking into account the situation of the latter, it is inevitable to ask: is it worth preserving the remains of these dilapidated sets? Can they be considered cultural heritage and protected against deterioration, as is the case with architectural or archaeological heritage? Do they have any interest for the citizenry? If they could be declared as cultural heritage, how long would we have to wait, after their abandonment, to be able to consider it as such?

In order to answer these questions, it would be necessary to analyze, first of all, the Spanish legislation on cultural and historical heritage. In this way, we could find out if the film sets are likely to be protected in an official way or not.

The regulation on cinematographic activities in Spain dates back to the 1950s; but it would not be until the 1980s, when the possibility of protecting the assets that are part of the cinematographic heritage began to be considered.

Currently, the main law that regulates this aspect in Spain is Law 16/1985 of June 25, on Spanish Historical Heritage. To this law should be added the different Heritage laws approved in each of the Autonomous Communities, with which it is intended to go further and regulate, in accordance with the historical and cultural characteristics of each region.

Beginning with the Spanish Historical Heritage Law, the only references to film heritage are made in Title VII, Chapter II, Article 50.2, which states: "2. They also form part of the Spanish Historical Heritage and the regime corresponding to the Bibliographic Heritage the copies product of editions of cinematographic films, records, photographs, audiovisual materials or other similar materials, whatever their material support, of which at least three copies are not recorded in public services, or one in the case of motion pictures". In other words, state protection covers only the films themselves, which are considered movable property, and there is no specific reference in the law to other elements that are part of film production.

This situation improved somewhat in 2001, when Law 15/2001 of July 9, for the encouragement and promotion of cinematography and the audiovisual sector, was approved. Said Law was an important step in the recognition of the cultural value of cinematographic and audiovisual creation. However, although the protection was extended to other cinematographic elements such as scripts, photographs, books, posters, covers or materials used in filming (competence attributed to the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts), it continued without considering the sets of cinema as part of this heritage.

Despite this worrying situation for the sets, there might still be some hope. If we carefully analyze the content of the Historical Heritage Law, the latter perhaps could have a certain fit in one of its sections.

[Reprinted by permission of Javier Ramos Altamira]

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