Saturday, May 4, 2019

Justice delayed (and delayed and delayed) in Almudena Carracedo & Robert Bahar's very necessary documentary about Spain's ongoing fascist history, THE SILENCE OF OTHERS

How long has this justice been delayed? Just ask (if only you still could) María Martín, shown below, the 83-year-old woman we meet first in THE SILENCE OF OTHERS. María's mother was taken by fascist dictator Francisco Franco's followers during the Spanish Civil War, shot and killed and then buried in a mass grave. María has spent the rest of her life trying to obtain -- no, not even a shred of justice, let alone vengeance -- only her mother's remains in order to give the woman a proper burial. Good luck with that.

María is only one of the several people we meet in this new documentary, directed and co-written by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar (shown below with Ms Carracedo on the left), all of whom are awaiting justice. José María Galante (two photos below), for instance, lives just down the street from the man who tortured him (and others) over and over again during the Franco regime, yet has thus far been meted out no punishment for his crimes against humanity. How creepy and disgusting is that?

But filmmakers Carracedo and Bahar are not the type to unduly raise their voice or dabble in heavy melodramatics. Instead they present their case (compiled over a period of six years) quietly and methodically, in which only a few of these justice-seekers are shown us, along with the folk (lawyers and so forth in both Spain and Argentina) who are helping them along. Spanish justice, it would seem, moves at the pace of a snail on tranquilizers and includes what some of these people refer to as "the law of forgetting."

When, at the end of Franco's dictatorship back in the 1970s, amnesty was finally given to political prisoners, this amnesty only came with the requirement that equal amnesty be given to those to tortured, murdered and stole both the babies and even some of the older children of the vanquished. Where, for god's sake, is the "justice" in any of this? And yet, as the documentary makes clear, those seeking justice have kept pushing for it down the decades.

The filmmakers also offer us enough history to at least partially understand the background of what happened in Spain and why it so divided this nation. Which remains, by the way, as divided as ever. We see the Spanish equivalent of America's dumbed-down, hate-filled and utterly "conned" right-wing populace (above), as well as those who keep fighting for some semblance of justice, along with some of the testimony -- staggering, moving and surprising -- of those who were tortured.

One elderly woman (I believe her name is Ascensión Mendieta), above, center, must travel at her very advanced age to Argentina and back because the Spanish courts refuse to even take up the case of the victims here in Spain. Yet, according to the Argentine lawyer who does take the case, if the Spanish courts would or could only hear the testimony of these survivors, they might finally be moved to action.

Will Spain ever confront its fascist past in any probing, meaningful manner? We shall see. Meanwhile, this new and award-winning documentary provides yet another step in what is sadly a very long process. That the first and only monument/sculpture (below) dedicated to these victims was itself riddled with bullet holes by the evening of the first day of its unveiling speaks volumes about a Spain still halfway in thrall to fascism.

From Argot Pictures, in Spanish with English subtitles, and running 96 minutes, The Silence of Others has its U.S. theatrical premiere this coming Wednesday, May 8, in New York City at Film Forum for a one-week run. Other playdates? There'll be plenty. Among them: Laemmle's Music Hall in Los Angeles on May 24, and here in South Florida at the Tower Theater, Miami, on June 7. Click here to learn if there's a theater near you.

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