[After decades of silence, survivors of Spains 40-year
dictatorship confront the perpetrators of brutal crimes in the new
documentary film The Silence of others.] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 FRANCO'S CRUEL LEGACY: THE FILM THAT WANTS TO STOP SPAIN FORGETTING
 
[https://portside.org/2018-06-26/francos-cruel-legacy-film-wants-stop-spain-forgetting]


 

 Sam Jones 
 June 8, 2018
The Guardian
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/08/francos-cruel-legacy-film-wants-stop-spain-forgetting-silence-others]


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 _ After decades of silence, survivors of Spain's 40-year dictatorship
confront the perpetrators of brutal crimes in the new documentary film
The Silence of others. _ 

 Chato Galante returns to the jail cell where he was imprisoned as a
24-year-old for opposing the Franco dictatorship., Photograph:
Almudena Carracedo 

 

Chato Galante, who was stripped of his youth in the prison cells and
torture rooms of Franco’s Spain
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/spain], likes to joke that he is an
“unrepentant optimist”. He has had to be.

Almost half a century has passed since he was beaten and jailed for
his efforts to fight the dictatorship, but he remains confident that
justice will be done, that his torturers will answer publicly for
their crimes and that his convictions will be overturned.

Equally optimistic is Paqui Maqueda. Sooner or later, she says, Spain
will find the courage to confront the Franco years and their insidious
legacy.

Perhaps then she will establish what happened to her elder brother,
who is thought to have been one of the thousands of children secretly
and systematically stolen from their mothers at birth
[https://www.thelocal.es/20170222/tens-of-thousands-of-babies-were-stolen-during-franco-era-in-spain-and-now] to
be placed with less “degenerate” families.

Galante and Maqueda’s stories feature in an award-winning
documentary that examines the enduring consequences of the amnesty
[https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-franco-idUSBRE98T0YJ20130930] law
and the “pact of forgetting”
[https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/nov/03/comment.spain] that
facilitated Spain’s return to democracy after Franco’s death in
1975.

The Silence of Others [https://thesilenceofothers.com/], directed by
Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, chronicles the fight for justice
as well as the search for the stolen children and the 100,000 bodies
still thought to lie in unmarked civil war graves. Pedro and
Agustín Almodóvar are the film’s executive producers. 

“Part of it was trying to understand how all of this is possible,”
says Carracedo. 
 

Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, the film’s directors.
Photograph: Alvaro Minguito
“How is it possible today that there are people who are dying before
they’re able to exhume their loved ones and bury them in a cemetery
in a country with such Christian values? How is it possible that there
are thousands of children who don’t know who their parents are?”

The idea for the film came to Carracedo and Bahar eight years ago as
details of Spain’s “stolen babies” began to emerge – including
the revelation that the practice had not died with the dictator but
continued into the 1980s
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/27/spain-alleged-stolen-babies-network].

At around the same time, a group of victims and survivors of
Franco-era crimes filed a lawsuit with an Argentinian court
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/26/argentina-spain-general-franco-judge],
asking it to investigate cases of torture, assassination, forced
disappearances and the stealing of children.

People start looking for arguments – ‘it was a long time ago’,
‘it’s better to forget’
Carlos Slepoy, human rights lawyer

It provided the film-makers with a way into the issues and in 2012,
they moved from the US back to Carracedo’s native Spain to begin
shooting.

Over the course of six years, and 450 hours of footage, the directors
followed the progress of the lawsuit – which is ongoing – in both
Spain and Argentina.

At the heart of the film is the contradiction summed up by one of the
lawyers in the case, the late human rights specialist Carlos Slepoy
[https://www.eldiario.es/zonacritica/Anoten-Carlos-Slepoy-Derechos-Humanos_6_634196612.html]:
“When someone is murdered it is clear: the courts must prosecute the
criminal. 

“Yet when we talk about genocide, or crimes against humanity, it’s
not so clear. Instead, people start looking for arguments – ‘it
was a long time ago’, ‘it’s better to forget’, ‘we must turn
the page’.”

Bahar, who is American, thought he had a rough grasp of the Spanish
civil war – “we know the painting Guernica
[https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/apr/05/guernica-anniversary-basque-country-picasso-painting-peace];
we’ve read Hemingway” – but as filming continued, he realised
that many people in Spain and beyond tend to forget, or simply do not
know, about the dictatorship that followed.

_ _

María Martín sits by the road which covers the mass grave containing
her mother’s remains. Photograph: Almudena Carracedo
The Almodóvar brothers say the habit of forgetting has been prevalent
in Spain for decades.

“But 40 years on, many of us think that our democracy is strong
enough that it should now be able to address basic human rights
questions,” says Agustín Almodóvar. 

“We feel that this film, which treats these issues with tenderness,
respect and care, is a precious instrument to start a conversation
that has been silenced for too long.”

Galante, 70, felt a moral obligation to fight the dictatorship after
one of his fellow students was murdered by the police in 1969.
Convicted of “illicit association” and “illegal propaganda”,
he spent a total of seven years in prison and was tortured by the
sadistic policeman known as Billy the Kid
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/08/alleged-franco-torturer-discovered-madrid].

Although his alleged torturer remains free and lives only a 10-minute
walk from his home, Galante has not given up on justice.

“Today’s society can’t squeeze itself into a suit that was made
in 1978,” he says. “Something is changing. The generation that is
opening up the graves now is the grandchildren’s. And the next
generations will continue that.”

A monument to Franco’s victims in the Jerte valley, Extremadura, by
the sculptor Francisco Cedenilla. Photograph: Alvaro Minguito
Like the film-makers, he is cautiously optimistic that the Spanish
socialist party’s sudden return to government
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/02/pedro-sanchez-sworn-in-spain-prime-minister-socialist-psoe] could
yet benefit victims of Francoist crimes. 

The previous socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
introduced the 2007 historical memory law
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/nov/04/spain.peterbeaumont],
which was intended to end the forgetting – but the conservative
People’s party of the recently ousted prime minister, Mariano Rajoy,
were steadfastly opposed. With the party now out of office, the law
could once again be used to find bodies and bring the guilty to trial.

“This country has to do this, I have no doubt whatsoever about
that,” says Galante. “I don’t know how far it will go or whether
it will leave me more or less satisfied, but today we’re getting
closer to the point of no return.”

Maqueda is also certain a change is coming, one that could yet bring
her 80-year-old mother some degree of comfort.

Maqueda and her twin sister were born in June 1964, almost exactly a
year after her mother was told that her newborn son had died. The
circumstances of the baby’s “death” follow a pattern familiar to
those investigating the decades-long theft of children.

“Ask my mother how many children she has and she’ll say, ‘Six:
five who are alive and one who was stolen from me’,” says Maqueda.
“My mum always says she cried so much that God sent her two babies
the next year.”

_The Silence of Others screens at the Human Rights Watch Festival in
New York [https://ff.hrw.org/film/silence-others?city=New%20York] on
19 June and at the BFI Southbank in London
[https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=8EE33B4D-7738-43A6-8386-A81042FA50AC&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id=B287F5F3-3F66-43F6-BD9C-D7B64D575BF0] on
7 July._

 

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