By Hannah Scott-Talib
Many questions still surround the issues that arose during the rule of Spanish dictator General Franco. What effect did Franco have on the population of Spain? What really happened to the hundreds of people who disappeared during this dictatorship? How is the residual trauma felt by these victims being dealt with today? Acclaimed directors Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar dive deep into this notable and grim period in Spanish history through the film The Silence of Others. More importantly, however, they shed light on aspects of this 40-year dictatorship that few knew about with the help of real witnesses and victims.
Carradedo and Bahar’s The Silence of Others is the winner of more than two dozen awards including the Goya Award for best documentary film and the Platino Award for Best Documentary. Set in modern day Spain, it describes the impact of the 1939 to 1975 reign of General Franco and how it left the Spanish population, as well as the truth about how he interrogated, tortured, and even endorsed the deaths of thousands of Spaniards. Specifically, it delves into the lives of some of these victims today and what measures they are taking in order to receive the justice and closure they deserve.
In the opening scene, the camera follows an elderly woman leaving her house in order to place flowers by a deserted roadside where the body of her mother, along with hundreds of other bodies, still resides. The camera pans across the barren yet beautiful landscape as the lady narrates, telling viewers the story of her mother and what she underwent during the Franco dictatorship. The steady and captivating filming of this first scene contrasted with the soft yet impactful ambiance music and narration sets the bar high immediately, and for the rest of the documentary, this bar is not lowered—each scene brings out a new emotion; presents a new take on the story.
It’s no wonder The Silence of Others received so many awards. It’s no easy feat to capture an audience’s attention as effectively as Carracedo and Bahar captured theirs: it’s one thing to explain a historical event to a room full of people but it’s another to do so in a completely unique and compelling way, fully capturing their attention. This astonishingly raw and emotional film was pieced together through numerous interviews with Spanish citizens, incredible cinematography and dated video footage of Spain during the 1940s to 70s. Carracedo and Bahar present this issue as clearly as possible, all the while remaining bystanders in their own film: they let their subjects share their life experiences and thus tell the story themselves. Meanwhile, Carracedo and Bahar act as intermediates; putting it all on film and assembling it in a way that leaves viewers moved and, more than ever, aware about this dark phase in history.
The Silence of Others is playing at Centre Wakefield La Pêche (38 ch. de la Vallée de Wakefield) for Wakefield Doc Fest from February 22–23, 2020. Showtimes Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Visit wakefielddocfest.ca for passes.