DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

The Yellow Ceiling (El Sostre Groc)

Isabel Coixet exposes 20 years of systematic psychological and sexual abuse in one of Spain's leading drama schools - live from San Sebastian


Abuse comes in many shapes and form. And the notion of consent can be easily subverted. Antonio Gomez started as a student at the prestigious Aula de Teatre drama school of Lleira, a medium-sized city in the Northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. He eventually became a popular teacher and then a director. During his ascension to an indisputable position of power he implemented very unorthodox “acting” techniques involving the hypersexualisation of his teenage pupils (mostly female teenagers aged 14 to 16). Students were actively encouraged to kiss, grope and emulate sexual acts on each other. He went much even further: he took advantaged of his popularity and manipulation skills in order to have sex with many of the girls, and even with some of his colleague teachers. His behaviour was of general knowledge within the School, and yet nobody dared to challenge him.

The story is almost entirely narrated from the perspective of the manifold victims, in talking heads style. Their statements and confessions are interspersed with footage of the group’s classes and excursions, as well as newspaper covers reporting on the groundbreaking techniques of the School, and then later denouncing the extensive pattern of psychological and sexual abuse. Antonio was conveniently supported by his colleague Ruben, who not only helped to facilitate the encounters but also ensured that a false sense of normality prevailed for many years. This is coupled with Antonio’s personal efforts to compliment and reassure his students that everything was ok. He would send the girls kind text messages in the evening, thereby reassuring them that the sexual contact was within the norm. The majority of victims (now women in their 30s) confess that at first they felt “awarded” because they were “the chosen one”, and that they should be to do anything “in the name of theatre”. They would felt dirty and betrayed, yet unable to challenge the powerful institution and their most famous “lecturer”. Antonio is often seen on television boasting about his theatrical achievement, and unique “teaching methods”

In order to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to “art”, students were asked to show their breasts, masturbate and carry out in a variety of libidinous activities. Gomez was so manipulative that he managed to engage in consensual sexual activity with many of the girls in question. Consent was obtained through malicious power games. At one point he undresses one student and penetrates her without a condom. She was paralysed with fear staring at the School’s yellow ceiling above (hence the film title). The age of consent in Spain was just 13 (the lowest in Europe) until 2015, when it was raised to 16. Gomez complained that “only a conservative government could do that”.

It wasn’t until 2019 that these women got together and decided to take action. The problem is that most of his crimes had already prescribed by then, and there was no tangible evidence of his most recent abuse. They continue to form a complainant’s network, and invite more victims to move forward. The second problem is that the Aula de Teatre paid Antonio a compensation of nearly €60,000 (some sort of hush money in order to save the School’s reputation). Antonio fled to Brazil, where he continues to “teach” drama to a group of young girls. A newspaper article suggests that he is in the state of Goias, ironically where Brazil’s most prolific sex offender Joao de Deus raped hundreds of women for decades (his story is the topic of the famous Netflix documentary series John of God: the Crimes of a Spiritual healer). Joao de Deus is under house arrest. Gomez is still fully active.

The Spanish filmmaker attempts to contact Gomez on the telephone, but he refuses to take part in the documentary, cutting the conversation short. This film serves as evidence that women are stronger when they get together, and that film is also a powerful weapon in the battle for justice. Hopefully Gomez’s story won’t end here and that eventually he will be duly punished for the many years of criminal conduct.

The Yellow Ceiling is showing in the Official Competition of the 70th San Sebastian International Film Festival/ Donostia Zinemealdia

By Victor Fraga - 21-09-2022

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More

Elisa and Marcela (Elisa y Marcela)

Isabel Coixet

Victor Fraga - 13-02-2019

The real story of two Spanish women who married with one of them posing as a man almost 120 years ago is a superb piece of filmmaking, excelling both in technical and in dramatic terms - now available on Netflix [Read More...]

The influence of casino culture on Hollywood


Marina Hillquist - 21-07-2024

Marina Hillquist investigates the recent history of casinos in mainstream cinema, and reveals the achievements, the challenges and also the dark side of gambling in film [Read More...]

Cheryl’s favourite dirty movies


Cheryl Cooper - 20-07-2024

Our young reader Cheryl Cooper selects six dirty films of various genres that allow for a very intense, memorable cinema experience [Read More...]