RTVE’s Factual Slate Travels Through Time

María Jesús Pérez, RTVE’s international sales director, talks to TV Real about the company’s diverse factual-programming catalog.

The factual-programming catalog from RTVE is as diversified as it is vast. Covering a range of topics from history and wildlife to social issues, current affairs and arts and culture, the company’s slate of titles has something to interest viewers from all walks of life. “The target audience for documentaries is similar in all countries: people with a medium-high [level of cultural understanding] and who have great curiosity,” says María Jesús Pérez, RTVE’s international sales director. “[Viewers] are very demanding not only in terms of the technical quality but also in terms of scientific quality, so our documentaries have to be very well [done],” she says.

D Team: The Forgotten Codes (Equipo D. Los códigos olvidados), for example, sees history and human-interest merge as it profiles the oft-overlooked team of Spanish scientists who helped decipher Germany’s “Enigma,” the most famous encryption machine in history. Also in the way of WWII-themed fare is Joan Tarragó: The Librarian of Mauthausen (Joan Tarragó: El bibliotecario de Mauthausen), which teaches viewers how books became a powerful tool to escape the horrors of ***Image***one concentration camp. Other history-centered factual titles include Adriano, Metamorphosis; Neolithic: Door to Civilization; and The Look of the Dolmens.

The Spanish Skies (Los cielos españoles), meanwhile, covers the topic of the Mudejar coffered ceilings, a subject most viewers—especially those outside of Spain—might not be particularly familiar with. “Although some of our documentaries may focus on issues that may have a little more interest to the Spanish public, the way they are carried out makes them universally attractive to anyone with curiosity,” says Pérez.

The film teaches viewers about the uniquely Spanish architectural technique, which caught the eye of one of the world’s most eccentric collectors, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst had a number of them installed in his California mansion—including on the ceiling of his bedroom—and had several that remained in storage. After the tycoon fell into much-publicized financial ruin, his famous ceilings were sold, and some ended up installed in private mansions, museums or prominent buildings, but what became of most of them is still unknown. “The Spanish Skies is a fascinating journey that tells the story of these roofs, from the time they were conceived by anonymous artists at the dawn of imperial Spain to the unlikely transoceanic voyage that took them to strange places,” says Pérez. “It’s an exciting journey through history, starting in Spain and continuing in the U.S., Mexico and France, where some of these coffered ceilings ended up.”

For viewers interested in wildlife, RTVE has Baleares: The Untamed Archipelago, which shows audiences a hidden world vital to thousands of species; The King of the Savannah, a journey to Africa to discover the real lives of lions; and Spherical (Esférica), a look at the ecosystems and the fauna discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, Juan Sebastian Elcano and their crew during their famous round-the-world trip.

The arts and culture category has a duo of titles that center around Museo Nacional del Prado, the world-renowned art museum located in Madrid. The 52-minute The Prado Museum’s Passion (La Pasión del Prado) shows viewers in 4K over 400 works of art held in the museum, and A Night at El Prado Museum (200: Una noche en el Museo del Prado) is a four-part docuseries that sees the host interact with the museum’s paintings.

In the realm of social issues, there’s Broken Silence, about child sexual abuse; 18 Years and One Day, which shows viewers what happens when at 18 years old, immigrants are forced to abandon public shelters; and Tourism, Less Is More?, about touristic pressures and the measures to limit visits into cities’ historic centers. Focusing on current affairs, The Long Night of Caracas is a journey into Venezuela during the days of an electric failure, and The Guna Revolution is about the displacement of the Guna Islands’ inhabitants due to climate change.

At NATPE, RTVE is highlighting various programs from its wide factual catalog, presenting the last four episodes of the series World Heritage Spanish Cities, a docuseries produced in 4K HDR; Calling from the Earth(Aquí la tierra), a news program about the influence of climatology and meteorology on everything from behavior to economics to mood; Blood Ties, an intimate portrait of different family sagas; Routes of…, a journey through Spain with different chefs to discover its rich gastronomy and products; The Reporters, a news format that presents topics through the eyes of various street reporters; and The Ockham Razor, a docuseries that offers a critical and rational review of ancestral beliefs, mythologies and legends. “Our priority for this NATPE is to present our latest high-quality productions,” says Pérez. “Last year was very successful for our productions, which reached high ratings while airing in Spain and were also very well received by critics.”

Looking toward the future, RTVE will soon have several new documentaries that focus on “episodes and historical characters from the last century,” Pérez says. These include Skorzeny: The Most Dangerous Man in Europe(Skorzeny, el hombre más peligroso de Europa), The Valley of the Fallen: The Dictator’s Tomb (El Valle de los Caídos, la tumba del dictador) and Lagun and the Resistance Against ETA.

And RTVE is always on the lookout for new additions to the slate, provided they pique the company’s interest. “A new documentary has to address an unknown topic, or to approach it from a different perspective based on new findings and research,” says Pérez.