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Panorama Audience Award for Best Documentary - The Silence of Others
by Rose Finlay

The Silence of Others
Almudena Garracedo, Robert Bahar, USA/Spain

Following the death of Franco in 1975, Spain found itself at a crossroads. There were thousands calling for justice for the crimes committed by the regime, and yet the country was still strongly divided between supporters of Franco and those opposed. In order to circumvent any further political difficulties, it was decided in 1977 by a majority vote of the parliament that an amnesty law would be enacted. This guaranteed that political prisoners would be released and political exiles would be welcomed back to the country. However, on the other side, it also exempted those who had committed crimes sanctioned by the government during the Franco regime and the Spanish Civil War from being prosecuted. The results of this “pact of forgetting” is still felt today, and not only has it resulted in victims having to live in proximity to the very people who tortured them or murdered their family members, it has also led to a lack of understanding and comprehension of the general public about their own political history. Even worse, there are still some 100,000 people disappeared by the regime, lying in mass graves around the country. So long as the amnesty law is in place, it is almost impossible for family members to have the remains exhumed and identified.

In The Silence of Others we are introduced to several victims, relatives, and human rights lawyers as they spend six years in the fight to abolish the amnesty law and obtain the right to identify the remains of their family members and admissions of guilt from the perpetrators. Even today, more than forty years after the death of Franco, the issue is still contested within Spain with many (including the king and current prime minister) believing the past should remain buried. However, this does nothing for the victims who are constantly reminded of their painful past through streets and squares named after famous members of the regime, and the inability to address any of their grievances through official channels.

The victims of Franco’s government are widespread and still suffering. Throughout this powerful documentary it is clear that time does not heal wounds when justice is not served. An elderly woman hopes to uncover her murdered mother’s remains so they can rest in peace together. Groups of women rally together hoping to find children they were told died at birth but were actually stolen from them and given away for adoption. Men and women tell of terrible tortures they suffered from men, who have been allowed to live in freedom and comfort all of these years. It is eye-opening and frankly disturbing to see such blatant disregard of judicial rights of European citizens. And yet it still continues, and even when the victims try to get international help, they are railroaded by the Spanish government. This is a documentary that anyone who wishes to know more about a tragic part of Spanish history and current political affairs should watch out for. Unfortunately, it seems that until there is more international knowledge and pressure for the rights of the victims of Franco, it is unlikely that they will ever find the justice they seek. Winner of the Panorama Audience Award for best documentary.