As if nothing had happened?

By: Daniel Céspedes Góngora

The documentary The Silence of others (Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, 2018), presented by Pedro Almodóvar (one of the producers), from the first few minutes, does not want to specify by names all who speak. Intentional or not, the option seems to gain symbology. Now, while we recognize Franco and Hitler in archive images, it is an inclusive right for others to also be shown. Perhaps it was convenient to ignore each other’s names to be identified in front of the camera and for the voiceover, alone, to be explayed. But it would have been too risky for monotonous. The viewer needs to know who says certain things.

In the 1977 parliament, a new amnesty law would be passed in Spain at the time, which was, in principle, requested by the left-wing in order to achieve the release of prisoners. However, indulgence was requested even for Francoists in what came to be called “the covenant of oblivion”. At one point we heard a noted figure pronounce: “It’s just a forgetfulness. An amnesty of all for all. A forgetfulness of all for all. A law can establish oblivion. But that forgetfulness has to go down to the whole of society. We must ensure that this conception of oblivion becomes widespread because it is the only way we can give our hands without a grudge.”

Documental El silencio de los otros (Almudena Carracedo y Robert Bahar, 2018)
Documental El silencio de los otros (Almudena Carracedo y Robert Bahar, 2018)

In Silence…, the doers dare to question, through the interviewees, the pact of oblivion: “If a person is killed, it seems clear that justice must persecute the criminal, he must repair the victim. However, when it comes to these crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity is not so clear, rather they begin to find and seek arguments to try to say that it was a long time, that it is better to forget, that we must pass the page, etc…. how is it possible that justice can be done in relation to these kinds of crimes committed from the State?” , argues and wonders Argentine human rights lawyer Carlos Slepoy Parada, who suffered kidnapping and torture during the constitutional government of Isabel Martínez de Perón in 1974. As Slepoy goes through this, images of archives from the 1980s are incorporated into chile’s socio-political crisis. The viewer then warns Argentina-based Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón, an adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. So the documentary film connects the events of the Spanish Civil War with subsequent events that occurred in the world, as well as that it is, on Argentine soil, where you can resume what is an impossibility in Spain by the laws of yesteryear.

We witness new faces that, frontally look, when they don’t talk choppy to the camera. This undisputed intimacy of interiors is balanced with other participants, who make journeys for immediate encounters. They record the outskirts of rural landscapes and Iberian citadinos of stunning beauty; prevailing beauty in contraposed with the physical and verbal violence that the viewer has already witnessed. It is interesting to see, from streets and labels, the repercussions of Francoism, even today. It was almost forty years in power for the Warlord’s presence to be erased in one blow. It’s going to take them years to change that reality. In another illustrative documentary such as Many Children, a Monkey and a Castle (Gustavo Salmerón, 2017), Franco and especially his time, are alluded to, in a few moments, from other angles.

It’s a long way from explaining Franco’s dictatorship. But, as we later heard a young man say that the war brought losses of relatives to Republicans and Francoists, the material is opened up to an ethical and existential dimension where, in short, it is recalled that there was (there is) more than one internal understanding and attention in a plural and therefore complex country always in matters of unification and consensus. But how does a country, for its rich past, intend to detracde its memory? You cannot and should not forget that many personal stories of each family contributed to that past, because they deserve the remembration, to their right extent, as the presence, for example, of The Aqueduct of Segovia, The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial or, in specific, the Valley of the Fallen. How can we consent to a pact of oblivion? There is the persistence of the monument to the victims of Franco (Monument to the Forgotten of the Civil War and dictatorship, by Francisco Cedenilla) reminiscent of this other shocking ensemble (Monument to the Victims of Communism, the sculptor Olbram Zoubek and the architects Jan Kerel and Zden-k Holzel), erected in Prague, where seven bronze figures recall the political prisoners affected by communism in the Czech Republic. In Spain there are still supporters of Franco and the foundation that bears his name not only attests, but a pro-Franco demonstration. Jaime Alonso, from the foundation, decides to let himself be interviewed and his are the following words: “The most important thing in my opinion, to remember Franco, is that he was never wrong. Franco preserves the Western and Christian civilization of communist tyranny.” It should also be remembered that not all Republicans were communists, nor were everyone on the rebel side, in the end Francoist, embraced fascism. As you know, and in the documentary, a descendant of a Franco victim says: “The culture or history of a country is based on good and evil. And the bad must also be remembered.” Of course, so as not to repeat the latter or celebrate it, as one younger relative is sorry.

Adding to the unstoppable list of audiovisuals about the Spanish Civil War and its impact on Europe and for the whole world, The Silence of others sets a stop in the way to reflect, because it intervenes so much in our lives, thanks to all that we know, and even, despite what has been intended to hide from it. Ω

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