Miami Film Festival 2019: Throughout history, dictators and their followers have fallen. It is always a matter of time, but some last much longer than they have any right. Francisco Franco became known as a repressive and dangerous dictator as he ruled over Spain with an iron fist. He had strong ties to other world leaders, including Hitler, Churchill, and more. His fiercest followers tortured and killed people who protested against Franco’s policies. After his death, Spain began a period of transition after an Amnesty Bill forgave Franco’s prisoners and Franco’s supporters alike. Now, more than forty years later, “The Silence of Others” looks to give voice to his victims.
“The Silence of Others” follows the history of Franco’s regime and the impacts it has created on Spain today. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the years since the regime was the passage of the amnesty legislation and the “Pact of Forgetting” instituted throughout the country. The law and political ideology preached the country had to move past the Franco era. No one would be tried for their crimes, and the era would not be taught in school. The Spanish government took the stand that ignorance is bliss, and tried to move on.
Yet many in the country have never buried their loved ones. Many still bear injuries from the torture and beatings they bore. These people have suffered for decades, unable to receive justice for the human rights violations that occurred. That is when Carlos Slepoy and dozens of others petitioned for another country to step in. Under the concept of Universal Jurisdiction, another country can prosecute human rights violations. Pulling from Spain’s prosecution of Augusto Pinochet, Slepoy and the plaintiffs filed suit in Argentina. With this ground-breaking suit, it is possible that those who supported Franco may finally face justice.
Directors Robert Bahar & Almudena Carracedo handle the array of footage well. They draw from the archival footage, personal interviews, and the evolving lawsuit. In doing so, we get a good feel for the context of the events while we get real-time updates. The years spent on the documentary also bring to light a sad truth that not all of the people who have joined the lawsuit will see it through.
Many of the plaintiffs are in the sixties or older. Some were just teenagers when Franco rose to power. Yet that also adds pathos to each victory or loss. These individuals have been fighting for justice for decades. The stakes come into focus in a compelling and sometimes sad light.
However, “The Silence of Others” does occasionally dip at times because of the editing. Due to the way it is structured, we watch some footage out of order. News clips from 2015 or 2016 are mixed back-to-back with original shots from 2011 or 2012. This creates redundancies in the narrative. One such example comes when a war criminal finally gets exposed on television, despite the fact that we saw his face at the very beginning of the film. “The Silence of Others” might be fifteen minutes too long, but that does not take away from the impact you’ll feel at its peaks.
A documentary like “The Silence of Others” feels essential in today’s climate. Lots of moments can be easily relatable to American audiences, despite the Spanish setting. The rise of right-wing extremism has swept throughout the world, and in Spain, there has been a true pushback to that wave. “The Silence of Others” carries an essential message for this moment and for the victims of past crimes.