Bannockburn, Scotland 1314 - Oriol Gracià2014 will mark the , the final episode in the . In Catalonia, the commemoration of that defeat will have a strong political signification. After that battle, Catalan institutions were abolished, Catalan language banned during public activities and people had to accept the authority of Phillip V de Bourbon, the new king of Spain. It is obvious, that it is not by chance that the Catalan autonomous government has decided to organise a referendum for the independence in 2014, just three centuries after the defeat. But in Scotland —where there will be a secession referendum this September 18th— almost no one gives political meaning to historical battles. « Contrary to Catalonia, in Scotland no one has ever denied our identity. And maybe because of that, we don’t use the history to have arguments and justify our politics”, claim Blair Jenkins, chief executive of YES Scotland pro-independence platform.

So, without the political connotation that we can find in Catalonia, in 2014 Scotland commemorates the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, where the king Robert the Bruce I defeated Edward II of England in a spot not far from the Stirling Castle. The victory meant the end of thirty years of English interferences in Scottish politics: Indeed in 1286, the death of Alexander II left the kingdom of Scotland without a crown prince and from that moment, the English tried to control their neighbours of the north. First William Wallace, and later Robert the Bruce I, have fought the English army. In the end, after the battle of Bannockburn, Scotland could declare its independence, even though there was no official recognition until 1320.

In the middle of the battlefield // 700 years later, the battlefield where the English and the Scottish army fought is a green landscape —without trees— close to the houses of Bannockburn village, just 2 miles from Stirling Castle. In this spot, nothing reminds us about war, except the bronze sculpture of Robert the Bruce I, set up during the 60s. Nowadays, a few meters away from the sculpture, we can find the new that has just opened this week.

Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre

One of the most interesting attractions there is the almost 360º screen that allows the visitors to be right in the middle of the 3D recreation. « We want the visitors to feel part of the history, and even though it is a virtual battle, they can be in the fight, among knights, archers and soldiers coming out of the screen », said Scott McMaster, property manager of the visitor centre. And after being submerged in the battle, the visitors can try their skills in military tactics in an adjacent room, where a circular table recreates the landscape of the area. Each player around the table is in charge of a group of soldiers of either the English or the Scottish army (it is the guide of the museum who decides). The aim is to defeat the enemies and occupy the Stirling Castle. If at the end of this activity the visitors still need more realism, they can wait for the medieval festival organised on the last weekend of June —the actual date of the battle—when they will be able to be in a Middle Ages army camp and to walk among soldiers in the flesh. ( 4/2/2014 // Photo1: Barcelona 1714 // )

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The cinema, as a cultural format, is a tool to explain reality to the world. Cinema, for the Kurdish People —divided, oppressed and ignored— is one of the best instruments to show their situation outside their territory, to unify the nation and keep the Diaspora together. This is one of the ideas underlined in the introduction of , paper program, which is running in the British capital. A festival that in this edition has featured 212 films (23 features, 46 documentaries and 52 shorts), including the documentary , directed by my friend and me.

The Silent Revolution in London Kurdish Film Festival - Oriol Gracià

With our own work at the Picture House in Hackney, we had the opportunity to see a fortnight’s worth of films. In general, the films were emotional, explaining the concept of Kurdistan to the world while stimulating social, political, cultural and anthropological debates among the Kurdish people in the festival. On Sunday evening, after our presentation, there was a question time and we could exchange views with almost two hundred people filling the cinema, most of them members of the Kurdish Diaspora. The audience underlined two ideas about our documentary:

1- The Positivism point of view. The Kurdish nation is a traumatized nation and you can feel it in many of the films these days screened in the festival. The fights between tradition and modernity or the debate about the role of women were recurrent subjects in the feature films we saw. In the documentaries, the subjects were based around massacres, corruption in politics, war, refugees or burned villages. On the contrary, The Silent Revolution is a work looking more to the future than to the past. It explains how the Kurds of Syria have taken advantage of the context of the war to peacefully control the Kurdish territory, how they have created the basis of a new autonomous and democratic parliament, how they have started to teach Kurdish in the schools, how the role of the women became essential in the revolution or how they launched Ronahi TV just one and a half years ago, the first channel in Syrian Kurdistan, featuring both Kurdish and Arabic.

2- An ignored subject. Since we went to West Syrian Kurdistan last March —the area we filmed the documentary— the situation has worsened and it is almost impossible to access without putting your life in peril. This territorial isolation, obviously, it is also informative. Moreover, the international media speaking about Syria focuses on the conflict between the Regime and the rebels, ignoring the role of Kurds in the war. The Silent Revolution, therefore, gives a voice to a reality that finds difficulties to be shown.

We filmed the documentary with our own resources, it means with a limited budged. Furthermore, during the shooting, we worked in complex situations. For instance, we found checkpoints in every village; often there were electrical cuts and problems charging batteries. Also, it was difficult to find petrol for the car and move all around the area. But we are proud of the documentary. The warm welcome we received in London —thank you Kerim Gokturk, Rebwaar Salam, Mark Campbell and so many of others— is encouraging us to keep working on media projects like The Silent Revolution.

Sinema Bi Kurdi Xwese! Cinema in Kurdish is nicer!

Oriol i David Londres

// Foto: Mark Campbell

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If the Catalan referendum is to be credible, the Government must fix both a date and a question: “When you have a question and a date, the process seems much more serious”. Two weeks ago the Catalan media quoted the words of Agnus MacNeil, MP for the Scottish National Party in the British parliament. MacNeil, trying to compare Catalan and Scottish politics, talked about one of the main questions in regards to the processes of independence in Catalonia: Is the Spanish Government going to allow a referendum? What is the Catalan Government going to do if Madrid denies it?

Catalonia, a date and a question - Oriol Gracià

As the Spanish Constitution states, the Central Government of Madrid have the means to organize the referendum. For this reason, this summer Catalan Prime Minister Artur Mas sent a letter to Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain, requesting sanctioning of a referendum in accordance with Spanish law, as happened between Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

But as of yet, the Government of Madrid has yet to respond, and it is easy to foresee that they will deny the request. So, has the Catalan Government a back-up plan? Last week, in an interview with , Artur Mas proposed as a alternative to celebrate elections with plebiscitary character where the parties would take position, together or separate, concerning the YES or the NO. Then, if the political parties for independence were to obtain a majority, it may be possible to declare independence unilaterally, because Catalan people elected for it. But, this situation would mean a new confrontation between Catalonia and Spain, and would raise many juridical and legal issues in Spain and in European Union. But will anyone dare the opinion of the Catalan people? (Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP)

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