Running into its eighth week as I write, `Memoria de España' is a documentary series of 27 chapters, each of around 50 minutes run-time, produced by RTVE, the Spanish State TV Network, screened at prime-time following the main evening news bulletin, and doing very well thank you in its ranking of audience share.
The concept is enormous: a chronological account of the history of the Iberian Peninsula since the absolute beginnings, through paleolithic times to the modern day. One might well argue how can you possibly get all that in 27 episodes! Evidently, then, a lot of streamlining has had to be carried out, many features are covered rather hurriedly perhaps, and there is no possibility of lengthily dwelling on any subject matter. To do so would have needed at least 54 episodes, and in the end would probably have added very little in terms of interest for the general public.
I am no historian: I mix up all those historical kings of the past as easily as anyone else. However, `Memoria de España' has been enthralling from the outset. Captivating, absorbing, as the beautifully filmed scenes with digital special effects pass before your eyes, accompanied by atmospheric music, and narrated by an excellent female voice. Actors are used mostly without dialogues showing us how they lived in their caves in Santillana del Mar and Atapuerca, among other places, the early civilisation of the Tartars followed by Carthaginians and the Romans and on to the Moorish invasion and settlement called Al-Andalús.
The photography is superb, covering just about every corner of Spain and parts of Portugal: ancient heaps of rubble and remains of ruined castles jump to life as the enacted scenes take place.
`Memoria de España is up there alongside such afamed series as Carl Sagan's `Cosmos' (1980) (qv) - and you cannot go much higher than that.
Evidently this series might be rather less interesting for people living in other parts of the world, except for those people who have a special feeling for Spain and its culture. However, it should be said that here there are excellent possibilities for practising your Spanish, and as such is highly recommendable, for example, in schools for children of about 14-18 years of age.
The series has been divided up into several parts such that specialist historians are responsible for different periods of time and special emphasis has been laid on maintaining criteria in the maximum authenticity possible.
Some years ago I had the cheek to write to RTVE complaining that they had no right to bombard the people with endless stupidities, trivialities, and other fare for brainless viewing time, in the silly attempt to compete with the other independent commercial channels. I said that if RTVE returned to more serious TV programming people would little by little realise the honesty of something that is worth watching and abandon the mindlessness of trivial garbage, such that audience loss would be negligible, basically because not all the people are perfect idiots all the time.
`Memoria de España' has proved my point: hopefully The high lords of RTVE will take note.
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