By Fernando Dameto Zaforteza, Deputy Director of Humanities
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to see the only film directed by the French/Spanish intellectual Jorge Semprún. He is famous for his WWII memoirs and screenplays for the political film director Constantin Costa-Gravas. Semprún was born in Spain but had to move to France because his family was on the losing side of the war. He fought against the Nazis and spent the last years of WWII in a concentration camp. He was a communist although he dropped out of the party because of the Soviet Union’s policies.
Like most European nations Spain had a complex 20th century. During the 1930s it suffered a terrible Civil War followed by a military dictatorship; democracy was restored only in the late 1970s. It looked like Spain had recovered from that traumatic experience until the Zapatero administration decided to pass a Historic Memory Act in 2007. The problem with the Act is that it was written by people who didn’t live the Civil War -Zapatero was born in 1960- which led to a distortion of the fraternal dispute. Thus, the old left-right conflict flared up again.
The film is a series of interviews of people holding relevant positions during the civil war. Semprún has filmed the most honest work covering that historic episode. Semprún probably chose the best moment to do these interviews. Thirty years gives the necessary historic perspective to allow people to give a sincere analysis. Both sides were represented, including people like José María Gil-Robles (Conservative) Dionisio Ridruejo (Fascist) Fernando Claudin (communist) and Santiago Carrillo (Communist), among many others, which give the film credibility. In recent years I have seen confrontation between people in their twenties and thirties about the civil war and the Spanish press has taken either side in the conflict. With all respect I believe that neither the young Spaniard nor the Spanish press has lived through the civil war and neither has experienced the fight against relatives, friends or coworkers. In order to understand what was going on in 1930’s Spain, I highly recommend watching “Les deux memoires”.