Antonio Banderas Defends Spain at National Prize Ceremony

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Antonio Banderas

The Spanish actor weighs in on a divisive issue with Catalonia.

Antonio Banderas on Saturday picked up Spain’s highest film honor, the National Film Award, at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and waded into the thorny issue of the banned referendum for independence in Catalonia scheduled for next week.
The actor, who enjoys wide support in Spain as a homegrown hero who has stayed true to his roots, received the award from Spain’s Culture Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo during a week that has seen tension escalate in Spain’s northeastern region, where local authorities are calling for a “self-rule” vote on Oct. 1 that Spain views as unconstitutional and illegal.
Banderas spoke about the word “national” with respect to the award’s name and in clear reference to the contentious issue that has seen political brinksmanship lead to a situation that threatens to divide the nation. He was clear in his support against Catalan independence.
“My own coming of age parallels that of Spain, which as a country passed from a dictatorship to a democracy,” said Banderas, referring to the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, which ended with his death in 1975. “I believed then as I do now in the common project that is called Spain.”
But it was after he stepped down from the stage and spoke to a cluster of journalists who asked him to elaborate on his stance that Banderas spoke directly about Catalonia, which the actor compared to a film from Spanish surrealist Luis Garcia Berlanga.
“Logically, voting is one of the great concepts of democracy, but we shouldn’t forget that it isn’t the only one," said Banderas. "There is also respect for the law, the rule of law, which is very important. You could propose ridiculous referendums like eliminating all those who are not our race. Would anyone call that democracy? Democracy is formed by many different branches of one tree. We have to see that clearly.”
Tens of thousands protested in the streets of Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan region, after police raided local government offices there on a court-ordered warrant and confiscated 10 million ballots and other election material, as well as arresting a dozen Catalan officials. The move was the most significant step Spain has taken to halt the vote that has been rejected by the Constitutional court as illegal. 
The Spanish government calls the decision to hold an illegitimate vote undemocratic, while Catalan officials decry Spain as undemocratic for not allowing a self-rule vote.
Some 7.5 million inhabitants live in Catalonia, which accounts for about a fifth of Spain’s overall economy. 
Appropriately for soccer-crazed Spain, Banderas turned to a sports analogy to describe the situation: “It’s like a red card in soccer. Who causes it? The referee who takes it out or the player who made the foul?”