Interview with Carracedo and Bahar

Kristina Zorita
Kristina Zorita

EWA Interviews Emmy-winning directors Carracedo and Bahar after the premiere of "The Silence of Others" at the Berlinale

Emmy-winning filmmakers—Spanish Almudena Carracedo and American Robert Bahar, premiered The Silence of Others in the Panorama Documentary section at the 68th Berlinale. This thrilling documentary sheds light on the victims of the 40-year Franco dictatorship and their struggle to seek justice. Produced by Almodovar's El Deseo company, it won the Panorama Audience Award and the Peace Prize. EWA spoke with Carracedo and Bahar on the film´s themes and directors´approach.

How was the première in Berlin?

Almudena Carracedo – It was very moving. We were told that the German public is serious, receptive and calm. At the end though there was an standing ovation, quite unusual, apparently. We were 27 people standing on the stage—both the crew and victims portrayed in the film.. For us, it is the end of seven years of work. But for the victims is longer than that, they have been waiting for justice their whole life.

Why did you choose this project?

A.C. – We have just finished Made in L.A.—an Emmy winning documentary on the struggle of women emigrants. I thought it was about time to do something in my country—Spain.

In 2010, the issue of the stolen children in Spain arised. For us it was a clear legacy of the Franco dictatorship and could be a starting point for our next film. And then, we bumped into the Argentinian lawsuit – Civil War victims started a lawsuit in Argentina against Spanish perpetrators usingan international human rights law. And we saw there our common thread: a lawsuit which goes forward in darkness taking the claimants as carriages in a train.

ROBERT BAHAR – As a foreigner, it´s also a case of transitional justice. In America, we know a lot about the Spanish Civil War, and about the dictatorship itself., Yet nothing about the transition from that dictatorship to democracy. We don't know that a silence pact was made. When you hear that after 40 years there are still victims who know where the remains of their relatives lay—or victims of torture who know where their perpetrators live and yet they cannot do anything. The indignation for that impunity made me jump in the project”.

Why has it taken so long to speak about this issue?

A.C. – That question arises also in the film.

We posed that question too in the film There is a scene when one of the torture victims says that when the democracy came they were tired of fighting, of living clandestinely. They wanted to start living, so they put on hold justice seeking. There was even social pressure to silence the topic. But the younger generation is ready to shed light and debate the issue.”

R.B. – “The Argentinian lawsuit that we follow in the documentary has stirred a public debate. It was on the media. The social movement has been working at the same pace”.

Why opening in Berlin?

A.C. – “We wanted to premiere abroad from the start. We need that backing because it is a thorny subject in Spain. It is a documentary about the journey of the victims. We have been following those people for seven years in their journey from being victims to claimants. Being in a festival like the Berlinale means that the film is a real film, not a documentary made with two months of interviews. Moreover, it is important opening in a country who has dealt with its past better than Spain has done. We have a lot to learn from the Germans”.

R.B. – “There a lot of foreign people working on Human Rights who do not know about the Spanish case. Being in Berlin, it is a signal that the case is important for the world. There are similar cases in many parts. We have received feedback from countries like Lebanon, Algeria and those of the Balkan region. They have called us to show the film in their countries, to talk about Spain but also to let them talk about their situations. “

Almodovar's El Deseo has a share in the production, the only Spanish aid to produce the film. Why?

A.C. - We asked Institute for Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA) for help and didn't receive anything. Let's say that none of the Spanish TV and institutions wanted to support the documentary. The US public television has funded us during the seven years of the production. We had help of the Sundance Institute, Bertha Foundation, and many human rights organisations. They thought it was important to tell the story not only for Spain but for the whole world. They support the idea to making the film accessible to 8000 Spanish cities in order to create a debate”.

How do you work?

A.C. – “We work as a team. I do the camera and Robert is in charge of the sound”

R.B.- “It's important to do it like this. Some days, we would hear of a demonstration taking place in a two hours time. So we´d have to take our equipment and rush to these meeting points. Imagine if you have to hire a DoP with that short period of notice. Moreover, we had 800 days of filming … That makes it impossible to hire external staff”.

A.C.- “Also our filming dynamic creates a very strong intimacy that you can feel in the film. During the shooting, you are part of the meeting, almost of the conspiracy … We like to work in a way that gives space for our subjects to transform in their search for dignity.”

After premiered at Berlinale, “The Silence of Others” is heading to the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival at the end of April.