There’s an old (1949) British comedy film in which Pimlico, a part of London, becomes the Duchy of Burgundy practically overnight with all the complications that this entails – the kind of complications that Carles Puidgemont, the Catalan ex-president, should have foreseen before he unilaterally declared independence from Spain.
Passport to Pimlico
In postwar London, the detonation of a World War II bomb leads to the discovery of a secret hoard of treasure and an old royal charter granting the neighbourhood of Pimlico to the Duke of Burgundy. When a historian authenticates the document which – being previously unknown – has never been revoked, the locals suddenly realise that they are onto a good thing. Since they are no longer legally part of the United Kingdom, there’s no more postwar rationing, no need to observe the licensing laws and they can suddenly buy export goods unavailable to British citizens.
If only it was that easy! Chaos soon descends on Pimlico as it’s overrun by black marketeers and manic shoppers and the heavy-handed response of the British government results in crisis: the locals conduct passport checks on the train while the government puts up barbed wire, stops food deliveries and turns off water and electricity…
Pimlico does not stand alone in filmography. In the sequel of a recent Spanish romantic comedy, the Spanish Affair, an entire village in Catalonia engages in humouring a nationalist old lady by pretending that Catalonia became an independent state. As it turns out this was clearly less far-fetched than we thought it in 2015 when the film came out!
All’s Well That Ends Well
It’s in the nature of comedies that all ends well. Ultimately both Passport to Pimlico and Spanish Affair manage to resolve the situation to everybody’s satisfaction. The ‘Burgundians’ return to England (and English weather); the Basque-Andalusian couple of Spanish Affair lives on happily ever after.
We’re still to see whether Mr Puidgemont’s script for the Catalan Republic finishes as a comedy or as a tragedy. I’d prefer the first.
You might also like: ⇒ Border control in Pimlico (an excerpt from the film on YouTube) ⇒ Eight Catalan Surnames ⇒ 8 Seconds Independence (8 segundos de independencia)