When Almodóvar finishes the press conference of Parallel Mothers Something unusual happens at the Venice Film Festival. Journalists from different countries approach Spanish colleagues to find out if the mass graves of victims of the Franco dictatorship that appear in the film are a product of the film director’s imagination or actually exist.
That scene explains the success of the Spanish elites in hiding the human rights violations of the dictatorship and selling the world that the return to democracy is exemplary. It also explains the hard struggle of those who have scratched the earth to recover the remains of their disappeared and do not want the dictatorship to go down in history as a perfect crime.
Pedro Almodóvar is part of the movida madrileña, a movement that began after the dictatorship, which is characterized by a youthful counter-morale that breaks the rigid molds officially imposed by the Catholic hierarchy. Colored hair, provocative clothes and a display of frivolity are part of that cultural current that has political support because it disguised a social and political structure that has not changed its nature.
While the Almodóvar of the lively wheel Pepi, Luci, Bom and other girls of the bunch (1978) relatives dig up bodies of missing loved ones, without institutional support, only with their hands, picks, hoes, filial love and the desire to give them a burial worthy. They want to recover freedoms and rights without calling the abandonment of the victims reconciliation and without turning impunity into a habit of the political culture that has worked like a shackle tied to the ankle of democracy.
His attempt stops on February 23, 1981, with the coup. A lieutenant colonel of the Civil Guard assaults the Congress and pistol in hand shouts: Quiet everyone! before a country in which millions of people, like Pavlov’s dogs, salivate fear and decide not to touch the past so as not to awaken the monster.
With the coup d’état, the elites reconquer the collective silence and the widows, the brothers, the children are dying without the State turning its head to tell them that it knows they exist.
Meanwhile, Almodóvar’s cinema became one of the world’s largest distributors of the image of Spain. Some accuse him of hiding the reality of the country, but his gaze has a broad sociological scope and perhaps he is portraying that country that hides his reality.
With the beginning of the 21st century, the grandchildren of the disappeared resume the opening of the graves and show society those bones with signs of violence. They seek justice, truth, reparation. They criticize the transition that abandons thousands of families to their fate, allows those who fought the dictatorship to die without recognition and does not write the terrible history of Franco’s repression in school books.
When Almodóvar premieres Parallel Mothers, those grandchildren have been fighting for years against oblivion, against impunity, against ignorance. There is no government office in Spain that attends to families. No descendant of the extrajudicial disappeared has ever been compensated. No one has sat in the dock for the murder and kidnapping of the bodies of at least 124,226 civilians. And now a law is being prepared that wants to make a census of victims, but not one of executioners. And Almodóvar, the sociologist, has portrayed that country, in which reparation is not part of the Government, in which we were and are a Spain on the verge of an attack of oblivion.
*President of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. Grandson of Emilio Silva Faba, the first victim of the Francoist repression identified by a genetic test, thanks to a DNA that traveled from Ezpeleta, province of Buenos Aires, to Spain in 2003.