The AFI DOCS Interview: THE SILENCE OF OTHERS Directors Almudena Carracedo & Robert Bahar
A quest for justice fuels the powerful and provocative SILENCE OF OTHERS, from Emmy® Award-winning producers Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo.
After General Franco’s death in 1975, the Spanish people embraced democracy while the government chose to silence victims of his repressive regime, granting amnesty to those who tortured, murdered and stole children from dissident families. Now, more than 70 years after Franco began his reign of terror, those who suffered at his hand are demanding that the truth be told before the Spanish people forget their troubled history.
AFI spoke to the directors about the film, which plays AFI DOCS on Saturday, June 16, and Sunday, June 17. Get tickets here.
AFI: What inspired you to tell this story?
Almudena Carracedo: As a child growing up in Spain during the transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s, I was surrounded by these issues. We, and our society, were all highly politicized, and I remember the hopes and dreams of my parents and their friends. Those early memories have always stayed with me, and I always felt that I owed something to my own country of origin.
Robert Bahar: I’m from the U.S., where we learn about the Spanish Civil War but we don’t learn anything about what came after that. As I began to learn more, I was baffled by basic questions: how could it be that Spain, unlike other countries emerging from repressive regimes, had no Nuremberg Trials, no Truth and Reconciliation Commission, no national reckoning? Why, instead, was a “pact of forgetting” forged in Spain? And what were the consequences of that pact, 40 years into democracy, for the still-living victims of Franco’s dictatorship? These questions baffled me and are part of what drove me to make this film.
AFI: How did you find the subjects in your film?
When we knew we wanted to tell this story, we put our stuff in storage in New Jersey and moved to Spain with our then two-year-old daughter. We didn’t want to make a historical film and so we searched for ways to tell the story in the present, until we found the Argentine Lawsuit and started following the movement that was at the very beginning of its creation. Very much like we did with MADE IN L.A., we started filming everything they did, and some of the characters slowly emerged from there, while others came from deep research throughout Spain.
AFI: What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?
This film took seven years to make — which is how we make films, a slow-cooking process where we try to capture the evolution of people and processes.
Above all, as a filmmakers we had lots of doubts. There is so much unresolved pain, so much horror in this story, and the responsibility to do justice to that pain would keep us awake at night. Would we be able to capture the complexity of the situation? Would we be able to honor the journey and struggle of so many thousands and thousands of people?
It’s taken so many years but we feel that the film does justice to their plight, and also that it offers something complex and profoundly human.
AFI: What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?
“That could have been me,” or “that could have been my grandmother”… I would like people to be able to walk in the shoes of these victims and survivors of crimes of the Franco dictatorship, and to consider what it would be like to be fighting for decades to recover a loved one’s remains from a mass grave, or to be seeking the truth about a stolen child. I would also love for them to reflect upon how similar situations have played out in other societies. That’s what film can do, it can be an empathy-engine. It can make us feel and think and question.
AFI: Why is Washington, DC, a valuable location in which to screen your film?
The film tells the story of the first attempt in history to prosecute crimes of Spain’s dictatorship. It deals with issues of impunity for crimes against humanity committed during Spain’s dictatorship including torture, extrajudicial killings and stealing of children.
It deals extensively with the idea of “transitional justice” — how countries should transition from repressive regimes and form democracies — and also deals with “universal jurisdiction” as a tool for victims of human rights crimes to pursue justice.
All of these angles could be of interest to the foreign policy world in DC. The film should also be hugely relevant to anyone who has been involved with human rights or justice issues in Latin America because of the many parallels and connections that play out in the film.
AFI: Why are documentary films important today?
Documentary films have the ability to transport you into another world and let you walk in other people’s shoes. In THE SILENCE OF OTHERS, people can accompany our characters in their 6-year long journey towards justice. For that reason, because we believe in the power film can have to transform society, we are embarking in an ambitious 2-year long impact campaign with the film, both internationally (where the film offers a powerful tool for victims in other post-conflict societies to reflect upon and confront their own situation) and in Spain, where we aim to catalyze dialogue and support for the long-forgotten victims of the Franco dictatorship.