RTVE’s Factual Slate Travels Through Time
By Alison Skilton
The factual-programming catalog from RTVE is as diversified as it is vast. Covering a range of topics from history and wildlife to social issues, current affairs and arts and culture, the company's slate of titles has something to interest viewers from all walks of life. “The target audience for documentaries is similar in all countries: people with a medium-high [level of cultural understanding] and who have great curiosity,” says María Jesús Pérez, RTVE’s international sales director. “[Viewers] are very demanding not only in terms of the technical quality but also in terms of scientific quality, so our documentaries have to be very well [done],” she says.
D Team: The Forgotten Codes (Equipo D. Los códigos olvidados), for example, sees history and human-interest merge as it profiles the oft-overlooked team of Spanish scientists who helped decipher Germany’s “Enigma,” the most famous encryption machine in history. Also in the way of WWII-themed fare is Joan Tarragó: The Librarian of Mauthausen (Joan Tarragó: El bibliotecario de Mauthausen), which teaches viewers how books became a powerful tool to escape the horrors of one concentration camp. Other history-centered factual titles include Adriano, Metamorphosis; Neolithic: Door to Civilization; and The Look of the Dolmens.
The Spanish Skies (Los cielos españoles), meanwhile, covers the topic of the Mudejar coffered ceilings, a subject most viewers—especially those outside of Spain—might not be particularly familiar with. “Although some of our documentaries may focus on issues that may have a little more interest to the Spanish public, the way they are carried out makes them universally attractive to anyone with curiosity,” says Pérez.
The film teaches viewers about the uniquely Spanish architectural technique, which caught the eye of one of the world’s most eccentric collectors, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst had a number of them installed in his California mansion—including on the ceiling of his bedroom—and had several that remained in storage. After the tycoon fell into much-publicized financial ruin, his famous ceilings were sold, and some ended up installed in private mansions, museums or prominent buildings, but what became of most of them is still unknown. “The Spanish Skies is a fascinating journey that tells the story of these roofs, from the time they were conceived by anonymous artists at the dawn of imperial Spain to the unlikely transoceanic voyage that took them to strange places," says Pérez. “It’s an exciting journey through history, starting in Spain and continuing in the U.S., Mexico and France, where some of these coffered ceilings ended up.”
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