El Concurso de la Gran Felicidad (esto pasa mucho)

Estíbaliz Sádaba

In El concurso de la gran felicidad, Sábada no longer focuses on women’s bodies and the ways that society moulds and restricts them. In this piece she examines the everyday situations of coupled life, the fact that women suffer inequality on a daily basis, having to fight for such basic rights as to work outside the house or to share the care of the children.

Sábada has taken her distance from realism and the temptation to stage a fiction; instead, she has put together a careful mis-en-scene that signifies at different levels. The action is very specific: a close-up shot of a woman’s hands, gloved and glamourous, full of rings. The background is bright fuchsia, and as we hear the reading of a dialogue taking place between a couple, the woman gets rid, one by one, of all the jewels, symbols of psychological and economic dependence, rather than of love.

The dialogue on the soundtrack is from J. Ross’s text The female-man about the distribution of house work and family care, which in our society is still the sole responsibility of women, who suffer a process of gradual precarization. The tone of the dialogue, without dramatization, results in a distanced and ironic reading that allows us to think and delve into the words being spoken. One of the accomplishments of El concurso de la gran felicidad, is that it achieves an effective harmony between form and content.

Sábada knows well the history of feminist art and the individual artists’ trajectories from the 1960s, who began to use video in order to claim a new identity of their own. She has nonetheless chosen to distance herself from any gratuitous display of the stylized body or of the attractive imaginary that has been constructed around the heterosexual couple by traditional cinema, enveloping power relations with thin layers of empty eroticism and sentimentalism. The conceptualization of the scene, the voice over, and the high doses of humour and irony are the tools used by Sábada to dismantle precisely those referents that classic film narratives have instilled in us.

Sábada is one of the most outstanding artists of the generation of Spanish women artists, who, in the 1990s, and still with scarce technical resources, start using video as a weapon to dismantle gender stereotypes from a feminist perspective. In her case and that of the collective of which she is a member, Erreakzioa-Reacción (Reaction), the struggle is deliberately militant, without ambiguities, stemming from an analysis of the international feminist movement and aligning themselves with constructionist positions whilst warning of the dangers of a new essentialism.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: El Concurso de la Gran Felicidad (esto pasa mucho)
  • Direction: Estíbaliz Sádaba
  • Production: Estíbaliz Sadaba. 1999.
  • Duration: 00:01:50
  • Original format: Betacam SP
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright