The Silence Of Others

*****

Reviewed by: Emilia Rolewicz

The Silence Of Others
"The film cuts every so often to one of the few monuments honouring the victims of Franco’s regime; faceless statues pierced with bullet holes on a deserted mountain side. The Silence Of Others puts real faces to these figures."

The phrase ‘forgive and forget’ is a familiar and enduring one, but how true does it ring? For the people of Spain post-Franco dictatorship in 1975, whether they felt ready to forgive those on the side of Franco who killed millions of civilians or not, the state sanctioned a nationwide ‘pact of forgetting.’ Both this and an amnesty law protecting those who committed crimes in the name of his regime means justice has never been truly restored.

The Silence Of Others is a documentary which follows an almost decade long journey lead by a group of those who had been tortured, whose families had been killed or whose babies had been stolen, revealing how even 70 years after these atrocities some experiences can’t merely be disremembered. The interviews with the younger generations of Spain shows the devastating effects of ‘forgetting’ in how they aren’t taught about the Franco era in their classrooms, even many of those old enough to have lived through that time wholeheartedly defend sweeping Spain’s past out of the national consciousness.

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Ironically, the pact of forgetting does not try to hide the hoary monuments to Franco in the centre of Spain’s cities, and proudly preserves street names lead after generals whose victims reside just moments away. One man lives across the street from his ex-torturer named ‘Billy the Kid,’ somehow even the original Billy the Kid in a time of vigilantism and wild west outlaws managed to be prosecuted by a court of law. In this documentary, however, the equally violent ‘Billy’ does not suffer equal punishment as easily. When his victims try and extradite him for crimes against humanity, via an international court of law, Spain continues to hide behind their wall of amnesty.

Almost surprisingly, there are some victories. The lives of murdered family members cannot be restored, but even a woman at 88 years old demands and recovers the bones of her murdered father who is hidden in a mass grave, many of which stretch across the seemingly picturesque hillsides to the motorways’ edge. The de-burial is an emotional moment as it’s not just the bodies that are recovered, but acknowledging and uncovering the skeletons kept in Spain’s underground closet that makes history no longer a secret, but a statement.

The film cuts every so often to one of the few monuments honouring the victims of Franco’s regime; faceless statues pierced with bullet holes on a deserted mountain side. The Silence Of Others puts real faces to these figures by giving the people of Spain a voice, which rightfully immortalises the past. Observing the daily routine of those fighting for justice, while also being able to hear their interviews where they cathartically recall traumatising experiences from the Franco era, underlines how remembering is more powerful than forgetting, and aids forgiving.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2018
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The struggle against the amnesty law in Spain for those who committed atrocities under the rule of General Franco.


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