Tag Archives: spanish civil war

Una Pasion Singular (2003)

“My patriotism is for the human race.”

Based on the true story of Blas Infante, the Spanish film Una Pasion Singular explores the life of the man known as “the father of Andalucia.” The film begins with the arrest of the upper class, middle aged, Blas Infante (Daniel Freire) and his subsequent imprisonment during the Spanish Civil War. As Infante’s wife Angustias (Marisol Membrillo) struggles with the authorities to get her husband freed, flashbacks depict their meeting and early courtship. Infante and his wife are depicted as individuals with vastly opposed value systems. Infante is devoted to the notion of a separate, autonomous Andulucia, and agrarian reform that includes “returning the land to the peasants” but Angustias, the daughter of wealthy elites, is used to a life of privilege. Infante courts and marries Angustias and they both secretly hold the idea that they can ‘change’ the ethics of the other if given time and proximity of marriage.

Through flashbacks, the film shows Infante, who designed the Andulucian flag and wrote the national song, at various meetings organizing political strategy. Other scenes depict Infante offering his legal services to the disenfranchised peasants at no charge. These scenes of political, and social involvement are contrasted with scenes of conflict with Angustias. She was born to a privileged life, and she fails to understand why life shouldn’t continue on in the same manner. Disagreements about money, and Infante’s devotion to the cause lead to bitter arguments.

The scenes involving Infante’s fate at the hand of Franco’s brutal system of repression are very well done. The film does an excellent job of depicting the arbitrary cold brutality of the system–men taken out of the jail by night and shot, men taken on journeys by guards from which they never return. One of the most powerful scenes occurs when Infante is taken to a makeshift prison. The door opens and as Infante’s sight adjusts to the dim light, the room is seen to hold hundreds of men in various attitudes of despair as they await their fate. In this hideous makeshift facility, there are no trials, and there is no justice. Guards arrive periodically to take the despondent men away to their doom.

The contrasting flashback scenes of Infante’s relationship with his wife are not as interesting, and they tend to distract from the much more interesting story of Infante’s social and political beliefs. If, however, you are interested in the Spanish Civil War, or the tyranny unleashed in Franco’s Spain, then Una Pasion Singular is worth catching. Directed by Antonio Gonzalo, the film is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Political/social films, Spain

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

Land and Freedom (1995)

 “Revolutions are contagious.”

In 1936, unemployed working class labourer, Dave Carr (Ian Hart) attends a Communist meeting in Liverpool and is recruited to fight the Fascists in Spain. He heads out with little idea where he is going, but with his Communist party card in hand, he soon meets up with a loosely banded detachment of the POUM militia group. The POUM organisation was a Marxist Communist union that formed an alliance with FAI/CNT Spanish Anarchists with the common goal of defeating renegade fascist general Franco.

landThe militia live in rough camps, lack weapons, and engage in a type of trench warfare with the fascists. Dave’s adventures include the liberation of a fascist-held village, and a slow tender romance that simmers with fellow militia member, Blanca (Rosana Pastor). At first Dave is quite enthusiastic about his involvement in the war. To him, this is “socialism in action.”

Dave’s disillusionment sets in when the POUM militias come under Stalinist control. With Stalin supporting the Communist Party of Spain, the militias are ordered to accept new rules. The women–who’ve fought alongside the men–are ordered to become either nurses or cooks. In spite of the fact that new weapons are promised, nothing appears. The militia members are divided by conflicting opinions–some seeing that the militia is now effectively de-fanged, join the Stalinist International Brigade, but other members stay faithful to the militia alliance. Land and Freedom documents Stalin’s betrayal of the POUM organization and their allies the Anarchists–soon POUM and the Anarchists (who’ve made some significant military advances) are under attack by the Stalinists and the Republican army. The Stalinists shut down the POUM newspapers and arrest some of their leaders. Instead of fighting the fascists, the parties who are supposed to be allied against Franco, are fighting each other. It’s the old divide and conquer strategy–but this time the Stalinists effectively divide the Anarchists and the Marxists and squash them–betraying the revolution, and betraying Spain. The film makes it quite clear that Marxism is not the same thing as Stalinism, and that the Spanish Civil War was a war within a war. There’s one great scene when Dave–fighting with the International Brigade-is holed up on one side of the street shooting at a group of Anarchists barricaded on the other side of the street. Insults are shouted from each side and then Dave exchanges comments with a British fighter from Manchester. They ask each other what they are doing there, and each man answers “dunno.” It is this event that causes Dave to cease fighting with the International Brigade and return to the militia.

Land and Freedom is first and foremost a political film–the romance between Dave and Blanca is never forced or even central to the plot. The era portrayed by the film is a complicated subject, and this Ken Loach film does an incredible job of putting large political ideas into an understandable format for the average viewer. One scene, for example, portrays the arguments that take place between villagers following the village’s liberation from the fascists. Some of the villagers wish to divide up the land immediately and begin collectivism (one of the goals of the newly elected democratic government that Franco intended to squash). The argument whether or not to begin collectivism illustrates the different arguments that the villagers have on the subject, and this scene also includes information regarding England and France’s refusal to sell weapons to the Spanish republic–even though it was a well-known fact that Franco was receiving support from Germany and Italy.

Dave is a marvelous character–an everyman who “leaves Liverpool with a daft romantic idea” that’s trammeled by political realities. Ian Hart’s low-key acting style is perfect for this role. We know that Dave’s disillusionment is complete when he rips up his Communist party card. Ultimately–the film is an avowal of the ongoing struggles of the working classes. Land and Freedom is an important political film, and anyone even remotely interested should dig out a copy of this buried film. It’s informative, but it’s also an excellent, excellent film. Well done, Ken Loach.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ken Loach, Political/social films

Libertarias (1996)

 “No Gods-No Masters.”

The Spanish film Libertarias examines the Spanish Civil War though the fate of the Free Women (Mujeres Libres) of Spain. During the Spanish Civil War over 30,000 female anarchists were Mujeres Libres, and many fought and died for the revolution. The action begins in July 1936. Anarchists overrun Barcelona, and in the process, a Catholic nun, Maria (Ariadna Gil) leaves the convent with orders from the mother superior to return home. Maria takes shelter in a brothel, but this hiding place is short lived when female CNT anarchists arrive and liberate the prostitutes announcing that they no longer have to submit to the “sexual voracity of strangers.”

libertariasSome of the prostitutes join forces with the anarchists, and Maria–who isn’t adjusting well to being on the outside of the convent walls–goes along. To fiery anarchist Pilar (Ana Belen), Maria is a “victim of the clergy”, and she takes Maria along with the group. While the women join Durruti’s Column of over 3,000-armed anarchists ready to spread the revolution to the rest of Spain, they also clearly maintain their autonomy. Initially the women fight with male anarchists, but when Buenaventura Durruti (Hector Colome) decides that the town of Zaragoza is not defensible, the women stay to fight on the front lines.

The female fighters are a motley crew, but they aren’t afraid to fight and are willing to die for their cause. With the exception of Maria, the women are peasants, and they’ve all suffered experiences that ensure their dedication to the revolution. The female anarchists are also boldly sexually liberated, and again this is another issue Maria cannot understand or accept. But as misfortunes come their way, and the women decide to stick together–no matter what–Maria finds herself morally aligned with the cause. At the same time, she continues to seek out a patriarchal authority figure in an ex-priest-turned-freedom-fighter.

While the women march to war, it’s obvious that they really don’t grasp what’s in store for them. One scene depicts them playfully tossing a pumpkin around until they receive a harsh reminder of their surroundings. The film’s brutal, searing conclusion allows for no sentimentality, and by its very harshness, somehow the ending pulls the entire film into sobering perspective. From director Vicente Aranda, Libertarias is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Leave a comment

Filed under Political/social films, Spain