Sitges is a small beach town some 40 miles south of Barcelona in Spain that has long been recognized as an international mecca for gay tourists. The main day-time attraction during the summer are the 17 sun soaked beaches that line the coast of this tiny Catalan town, and then at night its exuberant nightlife of bars and restaurants (and cruising spots) make it the firm favorite with the LGBTQI crowd.
Brit Brandon Jones settled in the town in 1985 with his partner Juan in known locally for being the co-owner of Casablanca cocktail bar and art venues or the last 20 years. In this his first foray into filmmaking, he delves into the intriguing question of how on earth did this sleepy fishing town become such a major gay destination in the first place.
As it happens he digs back over 100 years to trace the history through early artistic and gay pioneers who ‘discovered’ the town and slowly help transform it. Not an easy task when you remember that the whole of Spain was controlled by the military dictator Franco for some 35 years until 1975. Under that regime homosexuals were imprisoned, but as Jones point’s out, the local gay population could push the limits to what they could achieve more successful than those in Barcelona.
Sitges history is not without its fair share of oppression and homophobia and at times a concerted effort by Town Hall unsuccessfully tried to stop it becoming a haven for gay tourists (exactly like Mykonos tried so hard to do too). They may have managed to make things tough in general, but Jones talked to some of the old local colorful characters who looked back fondly at how the community found its place and voice.
Nowadays in this very diverse and tolerant wee town there are still far more Bears than lesbians, and there is a definite political edge to some of their parades and partying. Most of all though there is a sense of a community that has gone through so many changes, and is accepting of the fact that it will continue to have to do so to survive. It’s very satisfying to see our history laid out like this, and gives us a greater understanding of our past,
In highlighting the history in such a way Jones wanted to emphasize through his film on how to give hope at the end of the tunnel for people in less tolerant countries, showing them how a small Mediterranean village(and Spain!) in less than 100 years overcame repressive laws and a dictatorship, to become a tolerant, all-inclusive place.