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The life of Jesús Gil, and taking lessons from the notorious mayor of Marbella

An American television series on the life and controversies surrounding Jesús Gil was released in early July this year, entitled ‘El Pionero’. The non-fiction narrative programme was HBO’s first original production in Spain, an interesting fact that illustrates just how fascinating a character the former Mayor of Marbella was.

The four part docu-drama was directed by Enric Bach and the colourful retelling is a timely reminder for many of just how bizarre, but also not so unfamiliar, Gil’s position of power was.

If you were previously unaware of Jesús Gil then you missed an entertaining and frustrating individual who achieved great success in many fields, including construction, business and politics. During his long life he not only served as Marbella’s leading official for many years, but also as president of the Spanish football club Atlético Madrid.

These positions of respectability were framed by Gil’s own aggressive stance on social issues, and seriously marred by continual reports of criminal activity and corruption. Prior to these appointments he had worked within the high echelons of property development, but his achievements in this industry were always stained by a disaster in 1969. Gil had been the man in charge of a new-build complex near Segovia, a city in northern Spain, which collapsed during a community function, killing 58 people. A subsequent investigation led to Jesús Gil being jailed for five years, but a pardon from General Franciso Franco saw him leave after just 18 months.

Enric Bach presents the story of the notorious figure through the narrative of two groups of voices: critical narrators such as prosecutor Carlos Castresana, and those expressing love and justification, like Gil’s family. The filmmaker wanted the audience to understand that dialogue is important, not only because of what is said, but also because of who is saying it.

The film also raises questions about Marbella’s judiciary and the Spanish media, and just how complicit they were in how Gil managed to get away with so much for so long.

“We are not used to facing up in such a stark and direct way to the portrayal of a person as amoral and complex as Jesús Gil,” Bach stated in a recent interview.

Marbella’s most infamous mayor was as divisive as he was popular. On one hand it is generally acknowledged that his corrupt way of doing business harmed the region. On the other hand, Marbella’s growth and success in the late 1990s has often been attributed to his work and passion in beautifying the town and returning it to ist former glory. Let it not be ignored that Gil was elected to this office a total of three times.

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Move Project is a specialist consulting business that manages professional and experienced teams working on exclusive property developments in Marbella and other sought after locations on the Costa del Sol.