Tag Archives: Franco

El Lobo (2004)

“Even in hell you need friends.”

The Spanish film El Lobo is set during the last day’s of Franco’s dictatorship and is based on the tel loborue story of Mikel Lejarza’s infiltration of the ETA between 1973-1975. The story begins with married Basque construction worker, Txema (Eduardo Noriega). While he’s sympathetic to the ETA–the Basque Nationalist and Separatist movement, he’s opposed to the use of violence. Txema’s revolutionary ethics are soon put to the test.

One night, a band of ETA members arrive at his house and ask for shelter. Txema’s wife, who’s opposed to his ETA involvement is hustled out of the way, and Txema allows them to stay. The ETA members are there to kill a man identified as a collaborator. Txema is secretly horrified by the news and even tries a half-hearted attempt to warn the target. But he doesn’t go through with the warning, the target is killed and Txema is subsequently rounded up by police.  

Initially beaten and interrogated, the police sense that Txema isn’t a hard-boiled revolutionary and that he can be turned into an informer. Using a few threats, Txema becomes the police agent El Lobo with the task of infiltrating the ETA and bringing about the arrest of its leaders. He’s their “Trojan Horse.”

Txema soon becomes romantically involved by female ETA member Amaia (Melanie Douty) whose sexual habits smack of the mentality of a revolutionary groupie. The relationship blurs the already vague lines of demarcation for Txema. During this difficult period for the ETA, Txema is assigned to a commando and is often required to locate safe houses for ETA members. While Txema soon comes to believe that he is one of the good guys, the situation is complicated by the behind the scenes politics of who is going to get the credit for nailing the ETA, and while some members of the secret service see El Lobo as a disposable piece of rubbish–others do not. Txema doesn’t realise that he’s a tool for political ambitions.

El Lobo is excellent in its portrayals of the characters and the complexities of the situation, and a very nervous Txema finds himself caught up in internal squabbles within the ETA. With Franco fading, some of the ETA want to abandon the armed struggle and negotiate with the upcoming new government. Other revolutionaries stay firmly on track with the old ideals of a separatist Basque state. Locked in the ETA’s strict hierarchal system and caught between suspicious ETA members, the ethical divide over the political and armed struggle factions of the ETA, and ruthless secret service agents, by the time the story is over, El Lobo is a convoluted mess of trashed beliefs and ideals.

Apart from being a good story, the film raises questions regarding revolutionary ethics and the use of violence.  And if violence is used, is it inevitable that the most violent man becomes the leader? The film also illustrates the argument that the fascist state needs domestic terrorists to further its political agenda. Violence committed by terrorists creates the perfect atmosphere in which governments can implement and extend further a Strategy of Tension–thereby manipulating and controlling the population who passively accept stringent legislation and increased surveillance. From director Miguel Courtois.

Leave a comment

Filed under Spain

El Lute I and II (1987 & 1988)

 Brutality, crime & poverty

The Spanish films El Lute I and II from director Vicente Aranda examine the life and times of Eleuterio Sanchez (Imanol Arias). Sanchez–a Spanish gypsy grows up in Franco’s Spain, and he’s already a young man traveling with his family when the film opens. The family live in the close quarters of a tatty caravan, and they are used to being constantly harassed by the police. The first scene establishes the dour tone of the film. Sanchez and his family are huddled around a campfire on the outskirts of town eating a meal. Meanwhile, Sanchez’s mother is inside the caravan dying. A couple of Spanish policemen arrive and demand that the gypsies leave–it doesn’t matter if they want to finish their meal, or if there’s a woman dying. The gypsies are treated with deliberate cruelty until they shuffle off.

el-luteSanchez meets a young woman, Chelo (Victoria Abril) at a gypsy encampment. Soon she is pregnant, and they try to scrape a living together. They end up in a squalid gypsy camp/ghetto with their small child. Again, they are beaten and harassed by police, and Sanchez finds himself with a jail sentence.

When Sanchez or ‘El Lute’ is released, he joins Chelo and their child in a squatter city that is composed of huts, but even putting a hut on some dump requires a bribe, and when Chelo and El Lute don’t pay it, they’re forced off the land. And this is where El Lute’s life takes a turn; he befriends a couple of men who persuade him to move near them, and El Lute embarks on a life of crime.

El Lute was a real person, and while the film is ostensibly about him, it’s impossible to avoid the greater social criticism of the impossible situation that surrounds him. Life is depicted as extremely harsh for the poor. This is Franco’s Spain of the 1960s, and yet at many points–thanks to the poverty and conditions endured by these people, it could be the nineteenth century. Both El Lute and Chelo are illiterate and incapable under the social structure from doing any more than just scraping a living and maintaining fringe-dweller status, at best. Somehow the film doesn’t milk the viewer for sympathy–perhaps this is due to the fact that in spite of raising our sympathies, El Lute remains not particularly likeable.

El Lute: Camina O Rievienta is the first film. Other titles are: Run For Your Life, Forge and or Die. The second film is Lute II: Manana Sere Libre. The early criminal career of El Lute is explored in the first film, and the second film continues El Lute’s story and his growing folkhero status for his legendary escapes and as an example of  a man who refused to bow to Franco. The films are in Spanish with English subtitles.

1 Comment

Filed under Political/social films, Spain, Victoria Abril

Silencio Roto (2001)

“Strangers fight for a short time–families for a lifetime.”

The Spanish film, Silencio Roto begins in 1944 when Lucia (Lucia Jimenez) arrives in a remote mountainous village. Lucia left the village as a child, and she’s returning to work in her aunt and uncle’s bar. Franco now rules Spain, but the village is a hotbed of activity by the Maquis–Republican guerillas in the mountains who continue to fight after the collapse of the Spanish Civil War.

Soldiers garrisoned at the village maintain a tight atmosphere of fear over the residents. Soldiers publicly humiliate villagers, and relatives of known guerillas are ordered to the garrison for sessions of questioning and torture. In spite of the fact that the villagers, are in many ways kept hostage by the army presence, some of them still find time to aid the rebels. Lucia forms a relationship with the young blacksmith, Manuel (Juan Diego Botto) until he too is forced to take to the mountains and hide out with the guerillas.

As rebel activity increases, reprisals against the villagers occur in the form of crackdowns and punishments. With informers everywhere, it soon becomes impossible for anyone to remain neutral, and Lucia’s involvement with the guerillas becomes increasingly dangerous.

Silencio Roto is highly romantic–and the fate of these star-crossed lovers–Lucia and Manuel is set against the national discord in Spain. The film illustrates that the Spanish Civil War–although conveniently forgotten by the rest of the world–still raged in parts of Spain long after the end of WWII. The film examines the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and the point is made that it just wasn’t possible to lay down one’s arms and return home. The length of the conflict ensured the involvement of several generations of family members, and this idea is well conveyed in this sad, and yet beautiful film. From the Basque director Montxo Armendaria, the film is in Spanish with English subtitles, and it joins the growing ranks of Spanish films that are now announce and examine the atrocities of Franco’s Spain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Political/social films, Spain