The Long Shadow of Franco – On Telling the Untold Past

FRANCO'S PROMISE, 2014, Marc Weymuller © Association Le Tempestaire


A wave of memory has swept Spain – the memory of a war in which crimes of extraordinary brutality were committed. The country is covered with anonymous mass graves. They date from the time of the civil war and the Franco dictatorship that emerged from it. After Francisco Franco's death in 1975, the "Pact of Forgetfulness" spread a cloak of silence over their crimes and the existence of the graves so as not to endanger the transition process to democracy.

It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that memory was gradually washed back to the surface. A wave of collective recollection developed, which has now taken hold of large sections of society and which makes the enormous power of the past tangible: while civil organisations strive to come to terms with the past, the extreme right rallies in the Vox Party and openly glorifies Franco. 

The six films in the retrospective are testimonies to a trauma that has become a defining part of Spanish identity. They seek truth in a world of repressed memories and untold past and reveal how much the unresolved history weighs on the democratic present in Spain. Pablo Bücheler


The films

Spain/Switzerland 2020, Luis López Carrasco, 200 min., original with English subtitles

Spain, 1992 – the year of the superlative. Less than 10 years in the EU and already it's time to celebrate: there are the Olympics in Barcelona, Expo in Seville and the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of America. In Cartagena, however, away from all the glitz, decisions are taken that have an impact on the local industry. The atmosphere is explosive. In a bar we get to know “the people.”


Spain 1976, Jaime Chávarri, 97 min., original with English subtitles

“Failure is the brightest of all victories,” says Leopoldo, poète maudit and the son of the national poet Panero, who was left-wing at the beginning of the civil war but by the end was on the right. They speak quickly and a lot, the three sons and the beautiful mother, an educated and completely dysfunctional family. Façade and abyss – Spain at a time of transition.


Spain/Germany 2018, Lucía Palacios and Dietmar Post, 101 min., original with English subtitles

In 2010 a Buenos Aires judge issued several international arrest warrants against high-ranking representatives of the Franco dictatorship in court proceedings that became known as the “Argentinian Trials.” This was something completely new – due to the “Amnesty Law,” all the perpetrators had remained at large until then. The film follows the attempts to finally bring them to justice.


France/Spain 2014, Marc Weymuller, 123 min., original with English subtitels

The battle for Belchite in the civil war was particularly fierce and Franco himself promised to build “a beautiful and spacious new town as a reward for unprecedented heroism.” The old Belchite could have been rebuilt – it was not completely ruined. But this was about something else: the eradication of reality – the result: amnesia.


Spain 1963, Frédéric Rossif, 85 min., original with English subtitels

On the eve of the Second World War, a fascist putsch gave rise to a totalitarian battle of ideologies in Spain. With archive images that the director Rossif surreptitiously obtained from the Franco regime’s censors, MORIR EN MADRID is a comprehensive chronicle of one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies. 


Spain 2021, Remedios Malvárez and Arturo Andújar, 92 min., original with English subtitles

The failure to search for the victims of the Franco regime belongs to one of the darkest chapters of recent Spanish history. The Pico Reja mass grave in Seville also remained closed until 2020. The opening of the grave encourages relatives and witnesses to talk about their long-suppressed memories of those who were killed.


This project has been possible with the support of Acción Cultural Española (AC/E).

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