Monday, February 21, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Robert Pittman, "Concrete Coast"

Robert Pittman’s film “Concrete Coast” documents the social and environmental impact of major development along the coast of Spain. The relationship between governments, locals, tourists and the environment is complex and it is the latter that most often suffers the most. How can man continue to use the rich resources provided by coastal areas and preserve them for future generations? What is the real cost of tourism to these beautiful, and socially and commercially critical areas? Explore these questions with “Concrete Coast,” Saturday, March 12 at 4:00 pm. Click here to buy tickets.

What is your overall summary for the film?

The documentary film "Concrete Coast" is about the

social, cultural and environmental effects of the last bit of un-urbanized Spanish Mediterranean coast being built up for residential tourism in the region of Murcia. Agriculture is disappearing along this 140 mile long coastline and is being replaced by 60 golf courses, marinas, freeways and new large scale planned communities with 1,000,000 residences, built mainly for sun-seeking British retirees, doubling the population of Murcia within few years.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

I have always been very much drawn to the coast. To see it being destroyed at such a rapid pace alarms me. The destruction is irreversible. This is the case not only in Spain but wherever there is a sunny coastline in the world. This film is to serve as an example for coastal communities around the world of the dangers of uncontrolled coastal development.

I have always been fascinated by the void in culture on the Spanish coast. It is a transient space where people come and go, much like an airport. 20 years ago when I first visited the Spanish Mediterranean coast it was the only place where the signs were multilingual.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

At times it was difficult getting access to places, especially the resorts. Not everyone was willing to let me film. The other challenges were, as with most films, financial. This is one of the hardest aspects of documentary filmmaking, especially for films dealing with critical social and environmental issues. I am grateful to the Fulbright Commission Spain for their financial help.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

Murcia has the last stretch of un-urbanized Mediterranean coastline in Spain. Everything else has already been paved over with high rise hotels, resorts and golf courses. It seems that we as humans do not easily learn from our past mistakes. This documentary is intended for an international audience and especially one which lives in or visits such touristic coastal areas. The idea of the documentary is to create awareness of the environmental and cultural impacts of large-scale touristic developments. By destroying nature we are also destroying ourselves.

Who (or what) is your inspiration?

In Los Angeles I made a documentary film "Oak #419" about a man who lived in a 400 year old oak tree for 71 days to protect it from being cut down for a new highway which was to be built to provide access to a new development with 20,000 houses. Interestingly, just as in "Concrete Coast", the access highway, which leads to the new development, is built before the urbanization is even approved to put pressure on the government. I have been working with both photograph

y and film on the spread of this type of architecture and urban planning, of the master-planned community, around the world. I have seen this model of development spread to Murcia and other parts of Spain.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

Travelling and sleeping on an old Danish fishing boat on the Mediterranean with environmentalists counting whales. (This did not make it into the final edit!)

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