Title: My Father's House
Direction: Gorka Merchán
Script: Iñaki Mendiguren
Performers: Carmelo Gómez, Emma Suárez, Juan José Ballesta, Verónica Echegui and Álex Angulo
Photography: Aitor Mantxola
Country and year: Spain 2009
Duration: 100 minutes
The so-called low intensity terrorism or “kale borroka”, carried out by anti-system youth in the Basque Country, Navarra and the French Basque Country, in response to the deficiencies of the political and social structures that are guilty of the feeling of marginalization experienced by the new generations, in “La casa de mi padre”, Gorka Merchán's debut film, he has an intense development from the perspective of those who have been very close to or have been victims of terror.
Although ETA announced the definitive cessation of its armed activity in 2011 and the self-dissolution in 2018, its ideas are still alive in many policies of the Basque Government, which, thinking about the ideologization of the youngest, designed an educational program to explain recent history ( 1960-2018) in schools, but it was not approved due to the criticism of the groups involved, it is
that is to say, the associations of victims of terrorism, intellectuals, historians and businessmen. And this is, specifically, the transparent vision in the script of the film, where the protagonist's fight against Francoism is dubiously seen by the sympathizers of the terrorist group, as he was on the wrong side of being a businessman. “They saw you as so abertzale, so Catholic. The respectable man who, after receiving communion, pays every penny ”, the brother reproaches him on his deathbed, referring to the revolutionary tax that ETA extorted from the businessmen, if they did not want to be killed, and that he refused to pay.
Txomi, after ten years in exile in Argentina, where he left with his wife and daughter for fear of threats, returns to say goodbye to his brother, at a time when the ceasefire of the organization and the opening of negotiations with Batasuna and the central government appeared to have given a pause to the violence. This return trip, however, will make you understand that hatred and intolerance, openly or tacitly spurred on by some Basque political associations, are still latent in people's feelings.
"Even if they smile at you and be kind to you, they hate you with all their might," the wife cries, uncomfortable with the treatment received from former friends and family. In fact, Ane, the sister-in-law whose brother belonged to the terrorist group and was murdered, shares the principles of the organization and while painting a portrait of her niece Sara explains her version of things, which of course is diametrically opposite to that of her mother. . This highlights the impossibility of communication between both parties, predicting more tensions in the future. In fact, after a few months of truce ETA broke off negotiations with the Government and entered another phase of violence with attacks and assassinations, demonstrating that the differences, in the search for a satisfactory middle ground for all, were impossible to overcome as well as stoking This failure is nationalism at all costs.
The burning of a bus and a bank teller by a group of young people from the village, among whom is Gaizka, Txomi's nephew, reflects more extreme acts of the ramifications of ETA, incorporating the impact of its principles in the diegesis in those who do not find their place in the new order and seek, imitating the fanaticism of their elders, to lead the Basque Country towards a regressive time rejected by more hardened sectors of society. “They are criminals, worse than vermin. It's that the Basques are going to have to go around the world with our heads down, ashamed of having been born here ”, laments the boy's grandmother, bringing to the fore the feelings of the silent majority. A majority, instrumental in their contribution, through social pressure, to the pacification of Euskal Herria, finally sealed in 2018 thanks to the Agreement for the normalization and pacification of Euskadi, accepted by the different political and governmental fractions.
The dialogue between civil society, democratic institutions and the armed group is, however, a utopia for the film's protagonists, immersed in the network of sectarianism and intransigence where the worst of the human condition is shown, of which André Malraux already stressed the obstacles to acting according to the highest principles and ideals, always trampled on and betrayed by the interests of the power groups, capable of manipulating the most malleable sectors. A truth that the failure of the negotiations then between the Government and ETA, resulted in an even greater split of the people, also separating the families.
“—Germán, do you think Gaizka would be able to set my house on fire? —You are the enemy, or what is the same simple garbage; and what they do is burn it like the Nazis did. "But he's my nephew." He is also a kid. -And that? If you have a head full of hatred. If he doesn't see you as his uncle, he sees you as a traitor ”, the two friends talk, shortly before Germán is cowardly murdered from behind, due to his writings in a newspaper column denouncing the state of siege in the town as a consequence of the attacks and threats of the extremists. And it is that putting the blame for their actions on intellectuals, the State, the police, businessmen or opponents in general, is the mandatory strategy of those who use all the means at their disposal to intimidate, subdue and subdue, for the sake of an ideal that has lost its value, having been degraded and distorted to conform to their murky agendas.
"Some journalists hurt us a lot with the lies they write." "This situation was not started by us." "Bush, Blair, Sharon, we would have to see who the real terrorists are," Ane confides to the niece in their pictorial encounters, seeking to attract her to her field. “This is hate, Sara. The fascist who did this to me when he was eleven years old, simply for speaking Basque ”, he adds, showing him a mark on his cheek, as an emotional blackmail through an episode taken out of context because it occurred during Franco's regime, not in democracy, and it was not exclusive to the country Basque since in all the autonomies the obligation was to speak in Christian, under penalty of abuse and even jail. One more example of the dictatorial boot, firmly located on the Peninsula until the death of the Caudillo, and which ETA appropriated once constitutionality was restored, because its separatist project was already above all legality.
The manipulation of History turns out to be another of the tactics used by those who seek to crush the truth and peaceful coexistence with theirs, driven by xenophobia, racism, homophobia, prejudices and their own inadequacies to a reality they detest, because it exists above their particular interests. “I don't want anything traitors,” the nephew had already blamed Txomi in his face, before Germán endorsed him as a result of the father's death, when he tried to comfort him by offering him all the necessary help to get ahead. This, within a politico-social framework of great tension, which the camera collects by documenting the graffiti with revolutionary messages from ETA on the walls, and which they do not dare to erase because, as a government official confesses to the businessman, “you know What there is". Likewise, the propaganda display of separatist symbols in public places, the pickets in support of the terrorists in front of Germán's house and the hints loaded with poisonous irony that the wife suffers from old acquaintances when she goes shopping, are clear expressions of the organization's maneuvers to separate and confront, as it glides as a shadow over the national territory.
Such an atmosphere of tension, pervasive for almost six decades, permeates the cinematic atmosphere and frames the sequential development, structured based on short scenes where two or more characters converse and put into perspective opposing visions of the conflict with which they lived then and coexist. still, although with less intensity. And it is that in recent years the increase in tensions between Catalonia and the central government and the escalation of the Catalan independence movement, have taken away the role of the Basque Country, opening another front of found nationalisms that threatens the territorial integrity of the country, and therefore hence its place within the European Union.
The atomization of the Spanish territory, as happened with disastrous results in several Eastern European countries, at a time of great challenges for the European Union given the autocratic escalation of the great powers, would have equally dire consequences for society in general. This, coupled with the uncertainties represented by the coronavirus pandemic, the cause of the greatest global economic crisis since the Great Depression, requires unity within diversity. Because respect for cultural differences must be as important today, as the will of the autonomous governments to unite instead of dividing, in order to achieve the survival of nations and their inhabitants.
This challenge falls fundamentally on young people, who have the duty to put aside their personal discrepancies for the common good. Something that the film touches on the side of the relationship between the cousins. Sara and Gaizka, despite having grown up on opposite sides of the Atlantic, share an attachment to the land where they were born; although Sara has a broader and more inclusive vision, advocating for a peaceful and negotiated solution. "Problems are solved by talking, not by shooting," he points out to his aunt Ane, while he reproaches the cousin for having participated in the demonstrations of force against his own people, although from a place with no place as a result of a fragmented identity. “I'm not from there but I'm not from here at all. So, where am I from? ”, He asks the father, for whom, paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, the place of belonging is linked to the freedom with which one can live in it.
The lack of this freedom in the geography where they have their roots makes the return impossible. "Things have not improved Sara", she will register, reiterating the difficulties of all the parties involved to find an agreed resolution to an armed conflict, considered the longest in modern Europe, which is for her the call to a fight that does not wants to star although he recognizes it in his cousin as a fait accompli.
“—They talk about the situation in Euskal Herria, the prisoners, the torture; All those things. "Wow!" Don't Borrokas have love songs? -Why do you say that? -That? Love songs or borrokas? Because you are borrokas. -No. That's a lie. You may have heard that out there, ”says Gaizka as he left a bar with her where a group from the area was performing, showing the embarrassment caused by being identified as a terrorist by his own cousin with all normality.
The denial of the narrow framework where the boy's future prospects stagnate contrasts with the affirmative and open vision of the young woman, who rejects the cousin's ethnocentrism for the sake of respect and recognition of plurality from a new social movement in which they can participate. all Basques alike. But such action is still a utopia in the context where the film is set; Hence, good intentions fade as resentments accumulate, preventing the protagonists from recovering the place lost when they had to go into exile. "And will we be a normal family?" Asks Sara's mother, fed up with harassment and fanaticism.
The chimerical desire for normality will, however, recede as the fence closes around them. In fact, Txomi's refusal to have an escort, since he considers himself “a normal and ordinary guy”, even when his wife reminds him that he is still threatened, will end up sealing his fate; and Sara's hope that things will improve will be shattered, once the father has been executed, as Germán was, but by a young woman of the same generation. This will completely change her perception of the place where she was born and believed that she could recover on this trip, putting her face to face with terror, when facing the cold-blooded murder of the most beloved. Here death takes on unexpected appearances for her, since she never imagined that those whom she frivolously branded as borrokas would be the executioners and would mobilize in her a process of recognition of her own self in evil. A process, where Euskadi as home will be suspended until "things", to which his father referred, reach, if not to be resolved, at least to allow a peaceful coexistence within the national borders.
Sara's meeting with Gaizka in the cemetery, before starting the reverse trip back to Argentina, will be the end point of a day where both have seen the need to put priorities and beliefs into perspective; each one in its own particular space. That of the young man, through a rethinking of his situation within the political struggle that does not lead him to become a criminal; and that of the girl, through the reconsideration of her place between the ancestral homeland and the adopted one, where the father's house as a continent of her past, doubts and "complexes in all their ambiguity" will anchor her to an inescapable responsibility. Therefore, to Gaizka's question, "Will you come back?" she will answer: "here is my father's house, I have to take care of it."
Taking care of one's own home and that of all Basques, "without anyone having rights above others" is then the challenge posed by the director, who also advocates an inclusive territoriality where differences are respected, without external impositions or coercion internal. These initiatives, together with the review of the reasons and consequences of terrorism, which the media have addressed for those who did not experience it or had wanted to erase it from their imaginary, will be able to adjust and readjust perspectives, broaden perceptions, solve mysteries and dispel myths. in addition to exposing the evils of discourses and policies of domination by power groups.
In this sense, three television series produced in recent times present different perspectives of ETA and its scope: “ETA, el final del silencio” (2019), directed by Jon Sistiaga and Alfonso Cortés-Cabanillas, “La línea invisible” ( 2020), directed by Mariano Barroso and “Patria” (2020), under the direction of Aitor Gabilondo. Recognizing and understanding History, through these and other initiatives, especially thinking about the new generations, will be essential to prevent falling into the same mistakes that led to terror and violence for so many decades in the name of the most extreme nationalisms.
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