The Cathedral

Does it take a madman or a genius to singlehandedly build a cathedral?

The Cathedral Expelled from his monastery after he fails to fit in, a Spanish monk returns home. Downtrodden but not defeated, he becomes determined to realise a monumental project. For 60 years, with little assistance and no architectural expertise, he builds a gigantic cathedral out of waste and recycled materials. His community labels him a madman. Others label him a genius.

 The Cathedral
(2022) on IMDb

LaurelFIFAAC | Winner | Best Film | Prix des Ecoles spécialisées
LaurelKrakow Film Festival | Winner | Best Film
LaurelCinematik International Film Festival | Winner | Audience Award
LaurelEIDF | Winner | Special Mention of the Jury
LaurelTallinn Black Nights Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelFestival dei Popoli | Official Selection
LaurelKerala Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelZagrebdox | Official Selection
LaurelTransylvania International Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelBudapest International Documentary Festival | Official Selection
LaurelOne World Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelFIPADOC | Official Selection

Reviews and More

"For nearly 60 years, a former monk toiled almost single-handedly on an extraordinary building outside Madrid. Is it a folly or a masterpiece?" - The Guardian

"Justo Gallego is a wonder for the whole world. Is he a madman and a fanatic, or an incredible example of the strength of human faith?" - SME Culture

"Kevin McCloud in Great Designs has never seen anything like it! And neither have you." - Interia Film

"Incredible and astounding at the same time." - FM Zine

The Producers

Denis Dobrovoda - Director and Producer

Denis Dobrovoda is a film director and producer. He started his career in television, working on various shows for British broadcasters ITV and Channel 4. Denis also directed a couple of successful fiction short films, which were featured on the BBC and ShortsTV.

In 2018, Denis began developing The Cathedral, which started out as a photojournalistic project, and over time morphed into a documentary feature film. The film is Denis’s feature length debut. It premiered in competition at the 62nd Krakow Film Festival, where it won the Golden Horn award for Best Film, and has qualified for both the Academy Awards and the European Film Awards. Since then it has won awards and screened at a number of prestigious festivals, including FIPADOC, PÖFF Black Nights, and the 63rd Festival dei Popoli.

Denis studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, and completed a course in Filmmaking at EICAR in Paris.

Matthew Bremner - Producer

Matthew Bremner is a Scottish investigative journalist, podcaster and filmmaker. He has written about topics spanning suicide in Japan to the drug trade in Bangladeshi refugee camps, with most of his work concentrating on Spanish-speaking countries. Matthew’s writing has appeared in The Economist, The NewStatesman, The Guardian Long Read, and Bloomberg Businessweek.

He is currently writing and producing a ten-episode investigative podcast series for Spotify, which will be released in English and Spanish early next year. He lives in Spain.

Making The Film

Director's Statement

In 2018 Matthew came across the story of Justo Gallego, a 92-year old ex-monk, who was building a cathedral in a town in Spain. The cathedral was apparently illegal, and even though Justo had been featured in the media in the past, none of the writing went deeper than a few superficial sentences. Matthew decided to try and write the first in-depth account of Justo’s story, and invited me to come along as a photographer. Justo and his carer Angel agreed we could come, but Justo’s participation hinged on our willingness to participate in the construction. We spent a week in Mejorada del Campo and worked with Justo, witnessing his unbelievable zeal and dedication, despite his frailty and old age.

We both found the experience incredibly interesting and decided to return to the Cathedral of Faith a few months later, with the view of capturing Justo’s efforts and doing interviews with people who knew him. We knew that apart from a few short films and TV reports there was no documentary capturing Justo’s story in its entirety. In the beginning we didn’t know whether we could make something more than another short form account, but intuitively we knew that there was so much depth in the story that it could definitely make for a great feature. By the time we started shooting Justo’s health had worsened, and he had had to stop working. But he was still spending every day in the building, planning how the cathedral could be finished. Between 2018 and 2020 we recorded a number of interviews and shot some material with Justo himself, and we realised there was such a richness in the material that the project could go from a vague idea into a real film. We started working on the first rough cut, while also searching for any archive footage sources that we could find. But we were still shooting totally independently, self-funding everything, and doing it all with friends. In 2021 we had a number of major breakthroughs, receiving a prestigious American grant and coming across a wealth of archive footage from people’s home videos, student films, and TV shorts. It became obvious that with all this material our documentary could become the definitive of Justo’s life and construction.

We spent the next two years simultaneously shooting and editing, going through a number of rough cuts and shaping the film in a way that would create the most intimate portrait of Justo Gallego. For me, the experience of making the documentary was life changing not only professionally, but also on a personal level. Justo was such a unique character that one cannot not be affected by him. I think he provides us with a mirror - asking us the most fundamental questions about the meaning of life and what to do with it - and it is precisely this dimension of him that forms the bedrock of the film.
Denis Dobrovoda - Director

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