Spanish citizens attempt to seek justice for atrocities carried out by General Franco’s regime
Dirs Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar. Spain-US. 2018. 96mins
There is no embracing the future without confronting the past in The Silence Of Others, an elegant reckoning with the legacy of General Franco’s 40 year dictatorship. Emmy-winning filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar (Made In L.A.) handle complex issues in a way that is clear-sighted and approachable, making for a stirring documentary that should win hearts and minds on the festival circuit and beyond.
A moving salute to the small victories of determined individuals
The Silence Of Others finds the human connections that guides the viewer through recent Spanish history. The very first images are of the elderly, indomitable María Martín as she walks through her village to lay flowers at the side of a road. There is no trace of it to the naked eye but this is the site of a mass grave that includes the remains of her mother, who was taken from María when she was six years old .
The idea of the past being covered over and forgotten is central to a film that swiftly and economically sets out the facts before drawing us into individual stories and the bigger picture. Franco’s death in 1975 opened Spain to the possibility of change and reform. The giddy jubilation of democracy’s dawn led the Spanish Parliament to pass the Amnesty Act in 1977. The Act answered the left’s call for an amnesty for all political prisoners, but it also included an amnesty for the crimes of the dictatorship. The best way forward was simply by forgetting the past.
The Silence Of Others champions those who cannot forgive or forget, like human rights lawyer Carlos Slepoy and José María Galante who now lives on the same street as the man who once tortured him. Seeking to reclaim the right to justice, the men were central to a 2010 lawsuit filed in Argentina seeking trials for crimes against humanity. There is no statute of limitations on such crimes and no geographical restrictions on where they can be tried.
Filmed over six years, the film patiently follows the slow progress of the lawsuit as it gradually gathers plaintiffs and exposes deep divisions running through Spanish society. It is astonishing to discover that there are still well-attended annual rallies held to commemorate Franco’s death or that city streets still honour the names of Franco and his generals.
Unfolding with all the force of a classic political thriller by Costa-Gavras or Francesco Rosi, the film also has a comparable number of twists and turns as the Spanish government does everything it can to halt proceedings, knowing perhaps that time is not on the side of the elderly witnesses seeking to give evidence. There is an urgency in the way time passes and a movement spreads that also seeks to hold to account those responsible for the country’s thousands of missing children.
A though-provoking journey through the search for truth and reconciliation, The Silence of Others emerges as a moving salute to the small victories of determined individuals.
Production company Semilla Verde Productions
International sales Cinephil firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar
Editing Kim Roberts, Ricardo Acosta
Cinematography Almudena Carracedo
Music Leo Heiblum, Jacobo Lieberman
Cast María Martín, José María Galante, Carlos Slepoy