“I didn’t really have a plan,” Miguel Macias said speaking of his latest project. “The Crisis of my Friends” is an ongoing documentary that takes the audience on a journey to the economic crisis in Spain.
Macias traveled three times a year to Spain. While there, he interviewed old friends on topics such as politics, the economy and past conversations during that tough time.
The filming began in 2012, and is separated into four episodes and a teaser which will soon be an hour-long documentary. Each episode represented a different aspect of the crisis. The first episode covered an overview of the timely conversations that took place. This included eviction notices, politicians and corruption. At this time, many were living on the streets and could not afford to live in their homes. This led to climbing suicide rates, as people could not prepare themselves for that lifestyle.
“My premise is that it didn’t matter who I talked to, it affected everyone,” said Macias. At public schools, there was no internet or heating, and if a teacher were to take a leave of absence, technically the students would too. Since there was not a substitute teacher system, the students would be forced to sit in class without a teacher. This was simply due to the fact that unemployment had reached its peak.
In the second episode, the Spanish residents were asked about public versus private centers. These centers were used for health and education. Since public healthcare is offered to all, the price of private healthcare dropped to gain more popularity. According to episode two, many residents “have not been told when to use services.” This is a problem because many believed that public health was less expensive until receiving a bill from the hospital.
Universities also shifted during the crisis. While there had been a balance between public and private universities, the crisis pushed all universities to be private. This forced students to work in the private job industry. Instead of taking fun classes to “enjoy” a future job, the students were now told to pursue a major that would get them straight to work. But because the unemployment rate was so dangerously high, many students did not get a job out of college.
Politics played a key role in the economic crisis. The third episode of the series opened with a scene from a protest. The protest began with the residents shaking their hands and holding up signs to show their outrage towards their current situations. The packed protests were the only way to be heard in Spain, as the crisis had connected many residents together. “We are growing more and more resented,” a mother said during her interview.
As episodes progressed, there was an evident attraction between the interviewees and Macias. The comments received from the interviews are different than what you would hear from a stranger. Instead of going straight to each answer, the residents describe how this crisis affected them individually and what they are doing to fix this. The unemployment factor is enough to bring one’s spirits down. Many people could only receive temporary jobs and after going through rigorous college, were not hired. This letdown has deteriorated the identity of each Spanish person affected.
The final episode went over the idea of lowering unemployment by creating his or her own business. This was unheard of as many people were simply struggling to live a life with fewer resources. But many remained hopeful. As one interviewee said, “We want to change the mentality of the nation.”
The teaser, at 12 minutes long captured the essence of all episodes plus a little extra. “If you follow a group of people for enough time, you get a story,” said Macias. By experiencing this frustrating and “demoralizing” situation, many residents are positive that after getting through this Crisis, it will make Spain stronger than ever.
The documentary transformed into a question of identity. Through each personal experience, Macias ponders what his identity is and how this experience has questioned who he is as a person. The crisis has affected how many residents of Spain view themselves after going through the wretched processes of unemployment and hardship.
Macias is currently an assistant professor and deputy chair for graduate studies at the Television and Radio department at Brooklyn College. “It’s been a very personal process,” claimed Macias. Since 2012, he has traveled to Spain three times a year during winter break for four weeks and summer break for two months. He meets with the same people and gets their continual response on the issue. The documentary has helped close the gap between the crisis and how others perceive it. With the personal experience on tape, people from all over the world can take a journey and go through the hardships that many residents of Spain endured on a daily basis.