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Culture in France

Who stole Goya's head? A new documentary asks questions about the treatment of artists

Audio 04:42
Samuel Alarcon, director, Oscuros y Lucientes, a documentary in competition at Fipadoc 2019
Samuel Alarcon, director, Oscuros y Lucientes, a documentary in competition at Fipadoc 2019 Rosslyn Hyams/RFI/2019

Vying for a prize in the Fipadoc international competition category in Biarritz in January 2019 is Oscuros y Lucientes. Madrid director Samuel Alarcon's second film digs into the mystery surrounding Goya's lost head. Despite the serious subject, Alarcon raised a few laughs during the film's French première.


The body of the great Spanish artist was exhumed some 30 years after his burial in the French city of Bordeaux in 1828.

The Spanish consul in the mid-19th century was having the emigré's remains repatriated. When the grave was opened, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes' head had been removed.

Mixing art history, history of science and an eye for the extraordinary within the ordinary, in today's cities of Bordeaux, Madrid and others, Alarcon's story unfolds gradually and leaves place for his own imagination as well as the spectator's.

"This gives the sensation that a lot of amazing stories are happening all the time."

A cluster of open umbrellas moves away like a dark grey cloud from a statue of the head of Goya as the film gets underway, like Magritte for cinema.

It's not the only almost surreal image conjured by Alarcon as figures move across the screen in synch with the first person narration who addreses Goya.

"As Goya is dead, it's a way to get Goya alive!"

Bringing alive the mood of Goya's paintings and drawings, Oscuros y Lucientes is as strong on research as it is on personal filmmaking and artistic approach

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