Focus on The Silence of Others

From The Silence of Others movie

The Silence of Others pocketed the Audience Award in the Panorama Dokumente section of the 68th Berlinale. The film was directed, produced and shot by the duo comprising Almudena Carracedo (Madrid, 1972) and Rober Bahar (Philadelphia, 1975), who also took care of the soundtrack, and who previously teamed up to helm the documentary Made in L.A. in 2007. The Silence of Others was executive-produced by El Deseo, the company run by Agustín and Pedro Almodóvar, flanked by Esther García, who never cease to support interesting, brave and daring productions, such as Zama, the latest movie by Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel.

As a matter of fact, it is in this very same South American country that part of the action unfolds in this documentary shot over a period of more than five years (racking up 450 hours of footage). It follows a quest for justice by the victims of the Franco regime, ranging from people who were tortured during the infamous dictator’s administration, to mothers of children who were stolen during that dark period in history and relatives who are still looking for the bodies of their missing loved ones, buried in ditches or mass graves somewhere. Indeed, those affected had to fly all the way to Buenos Aires to ensure that the global justice system would spring into action in this affair that part of Spanish society (and a great many of its politicians) refuses to accept, unwilling to look back.

But it is precisely that group of deniers in Spanish society that should take a particular interest in watching The Silence of Others. The directors’ aim is for the viewer to feel like one more victim (like many of our neighbours, as the same thing could have happened to any of us) of those abuses and crimes, which are not unprosecutable, even after all this time, and which cannot – and should not – be forgotten. Rather, we must remember them so that they will be prevented from ever happening again. Only when those affected find their missing loved ones and give them a proper burial, and when those unjustly struck down see their executioners pay for their outrageous actions, will these wounds be able to heal (since, as someone says in the film, “It’s not easy to forget, even if you want to”) – wounds that those unaffected blithely claim are already cured.

But the fact that Spain’s undersoil is riddled with unidentified corpses and mass graves, that there are still streets and squares named after fascist soldiers, and that an Amnesty Law from 1977 (which includes an obligatory “pact of forgetting”) is still in force, says only too much about a nation that is perhaps still governed by silent accomplices in those atrocities who have not yet been brought to justice, given that no statute of limitations applies to these crimes against humanity. This courageous, moving, lithe, necessary and eye-opening documentary dares to demand the truth – a truth that is painful but which is one that every democracy needs to wield if it wants to grow in a healthy, respectful and fair manner.

The Silence of Others is a film staged by Semilla Verde Productions (USA), Lucernam Films (Spain), American Documentary | POV, Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), in conjunction with El Deseo, and with financial backing from the Bertha Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). It received additional support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Oak Foundation, Guggenheim Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship and Catapult Film Fund, among other bodies. Its international sales are managed by Tel Aviv-based sales agent Cinephil.