Tuesday, 1 October 2013

'Libertarias' last Night in Salford

HAVING finally seen the Spanish film 'Libertarias' made by Vincente Aranda in 1996, I can well understand why it has not been promoted by the British left as much as Ken Loach's 'Land & Freedom'. The reason is that it is too graphic, realistic and disrespectful in the sense of a black Spanish humour for English tastes. When Gerald Brenan wrote his 'Literature of the Spanish People - From Roman Times to the Present Day', he said that the English writer has a 'skin over his eyes' compared to the Spanish novelist who faces danger daily and must keep his wits about him, and to be prepared see things that distress the English reader: thus we get caricatures of Dickens and inner-life psychology, rather than Galdos and Cervantes.

It is the same with films, the English want them wrapped-up tidy in neat packages by folk like Ken Loach, but Spanish directors like Aranda, Bunuel and Pedro Almodóvar are happy to embrace the complexities, dirtiness and messiness of the world we live in.

Last night, Manchester Film Co-operative showed the film 'Libertarias' at The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford, to a small audience of less than 20. The film is an historical drama set in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. In it Maria, a young nun is recruited by Pilar, a militant feminist, into an anarchist militia following the onset of the Spanish Civil War. Guided by the older woman, Maria is exposed to the realities of war and revolution, and comes to question her former, sheltered life. While fully immersed in the overall enthusiasm of revolutionary Spain, Pilar and friends find themselves fighting against deep gender inequality which complicates their efforts in the war against Francisco Franco’s Nationalist/Fascist/Catholic forces.

After a short introduction by Barry Woodling the film was screened, but not before a member of the audience, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had warned us of a traumatic scene near the end that may 'upset' some folk. What might this be? Well it was the scene in which a nun is raped by a 'Moro' and finally rescued by one of Franco's more senior officers. This is the most telling moment of the whole film for an ordinary Spaniard with their centuries of history under the Moors, but to an English person with a schooling of a few decades of political correctness the scene may seem 'racist' or 'xenophobic'.

I'd definitely go to see this big-budget film again to grapple with its complexities. It is a pity that since the cuts have taken place under the Partido Popular (P.P.) government that Spain is not producing the quality of films it did in the 1990s and early part of this century.


Anonymous said...

I can't be certain, but I have a feeling that the warning was more to do with the sexual assault scene itself, 'trigger' warnings being common particularly in feminist communities as a polite warning to those who might have experienced similar.

Anonymous said...

it was pretty obviously a trigger warning for rape, not racism you fucking lunatics.

bammy said...

What the need for a 'warning'/ 'trigger' demonstrates, in my humble view, is something strangely English: that is that English people as an island culture are rather more squeemish than many Europeans about being offended. One surely does not go to a film about a civil war or any other kind of war expecting to be lulled into tranquility: as the play-write Bertold Brecht said of the bourgeiosie at the theatre like going to a Turkish Bath to massaged. The mature and sensible person approaches a war film in the same way as I, as a young lad, crept into horror films to be horrified by what I see: be it rape, sodomy, the Garotte, or genocide.

Anonymous said...

Its not about 'being offended'. Its about giving people who have suffered traumtic events the information needed for them to decide if they are able to watch a specific film (or similar). Sometimes what triggers people can be very specific (people being shot in a war film may not, where as a scene of sexual assualt may).

Content advisories (to give them there more commonly used term) are fairly widespread and mainstream. I see little harm in briefly pointing out specific things people may find triggering, since it only takes a few seconds.

Accusing people of racism seems far more disruptive. If it was a genuine mistake/misinterpretation, maybe a retraction could be added at the end of the article.

Bmo said...

Warning for depictions of rape have came about due to womens/feminist groups learning that this can trigger traumatic memories for those that have beem sexually assualted/raped. And seeing so many people have been sexually assaulted and such it's good to let them know this is shown in whatever media that's about to be played/read etc.

Also, this concept didn't develop in England by the English, this was developed by women internationallly as this is a phenomenon everywhere.

So basically you were wrong in assuming the IWW comrade was being overly 'politically correct' and/or sqeamish. I don't understand how someone warning people about a brutal rape scene at the ends makes you think about people being over sensitive about racism, two quite worrying aspects.

As a white guy, someone who isn't victim to racism as structural oppression and isn't as worried about sexual assault the way women are terrifed and base a lot of their lifes avoiding, it's cleaqr you missed the ball here completely.