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Martin Scorsese

Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts 2018

Your Majesties,
Distinguished Laureates,
Ladies and Gentleman

Thank you for this great honor.

I’m feeling at this moment: humility and awe. I know it’s customary to state such emotions under these circumstances, but believe me I do feel the humility and the awe.  Especially to be in the company of such co-honorees and of course in the company of the past honorees.  And to be standing on the soil that gave us Cervantes, Goya, Unamuno, Picasso, Lorca, and Luis Buñuel, one of the greatest artists in the history of the cinema. How else can I feel?

This is an honor for cinema. So, I accept this award in the name of cinema and with great thanks and gratitude to all of those artists who came before me and made the work I’ve done possible. Because there’s not one film or filmmaker who stands alone. We’ve all been in this great, constant conversation, questioning, answering, and provoking each other with our work across extraordinary distances not only in space but also in time.

And what is great about cinema for me is that it’s always present. It’s always the now. For me, Buñuel’s films are more alive and up to the minute than the latest text message you get – if you know how to work a cell phone. Peter Bogdanovich has said that there is no such thing as an old film. It’s just a film you haven’t seen.

Today what’s really exciting is when I see a film by a young or first time filmmaker and I’m taken, or transported, by what you could call a “cinematic gesture” that he or she creates. It could be a juxtaposition of one cut to another, it could be a composition, it could be a camera movement – I know I’m taken by it because I can tell that filmmaker was driven to do it that way. They had to tell this particular story in these particular images.  That’s what’s most precious and inspiring for me because that’s how it was for me. I couldn’t rest until I’d made that film in that way. Otherwise, it just makes no sense.

It didn’t have much to do with the movie “business”—yes, we wanted to break into the business but mainly just to get the money to make the pictures. In fact I never felt like a professional, really. I still don’t.

But, now - for young filmmakers, what a time it is for them. What opportunity! They can make a film with anything. All the tools are there and they’re affordable. You can make a film on one of those cell phone cameras. When I was younger it was quite different. The same with film history. Most of the film history of the world, every decade almost, from all over the world, is accessible at this incredible time. Wasn’t that way in 1950s.

But, despite all these opportunities I’m concerned. Concerned about cinemas past, yes, and very concerned for it’s future.

I know that in the practicalities of society art is always so fragile. It’s criticized, it’s put into the margins, and it’s treated often as if it’s not essential to life. True, this could be said of all the arts. There is always someone trying to cut art and the artist down to size. “It’s a luxury. It’s a diversion.” But art is resilient. When the dust settles art will be there, still standing, still present—devoid of popular influence and fashion. Great art works out of context. It stands on its own, it’s still present, and so ultimately is the need to create new work in response to that.

Still, I’m concerned about the temperature, the climate around cinema today.
ON THE ONE HAND, we have what we’ve always had: the constant belittlement and marginalizing of cinema. It’s either just escapism, or if it is worthwhile, it’s only worthwhile because it delivers an issue, a message.

ON THE OTHER HAND, everywhere you look today, twenty-four hours a day, moving images pour into our lives. I know cinema itself is composed of moving images but cinema has now become just one current in a great gushing torrent of moving images—commercials, episodes of a TV series, a video of cats or dogs, instruction videos, reality TV, Lawrence of Arabia, news reports and so on. It’s all become what they call now “content,” a word I really dislike. And serious discussion of cinema, critical judgment, particularly in my country, has been cut off at the knees.

Now that the cinema is being so constantly devalued, and at the same time technology allows anyone to “make a movie”, what does that mean for young people? They may need to express themselves on film, but what kind of inspiration are they getting? What will be the result? Are the values of our world being eroded so we can’t be sure if they are being inspired by art and truth? Or just for commerce? Where do go they go for that valuable inspiration?

Who’s supporting the art and artists—and, more importantly, the impulse to create art that will stand on it’s own? How do we transform this poisonous climate around us to one in which a young artist can follow the light within them, that spark, that soul, their duende?

It is so vital and important that we hold art in a place of honor and esteem in our culture. It’s even more important to honor freedom of choice, thought and action that leads to art being created. To give the young people the confidence and the ability to create their own path through life so that they can see through all the slogans and salesmanship— So they can see all the way to their own inner light. And that might lead to great art being created.

That’s where the real fight begins—the fight for the spirit. As in, Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Of course, he fought against the windmills. It’s been said that the windmills may have represented the technology of his day. And so in order to preserve the spirit, he fought against that technology.  And with that image in mind—one of the great, lasting images of our civilization—we can find our way to conquering our technology so that artists will come to use that technology rather than the other way around.  Where the technology uses the artist.  

So, I accept this award in the name of freedom and revelation—the freedom to find quiet and focus in order to see through all these absurd categories they have now and trivial judgments, and rating systems, and fashionable pronouncements to see all the way through to the revelation of what can’t be named but only felt and (for those of us who find the grace) expressed in art.

Thank you.

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