8 April 2009 | beduran
A shattered Basque family trying to cope with political turmoil and stay together
I would say that the movie focuses mainly on people that are in the black list of the Basque pro-independence organisation ETA, and this group's acts of terrorism. The main protagonist (Carmelo Gómez) was a successful plastic factory owner, who (coz he seems to have been linked to unspecified non-Basque political groups? was it because he did not pay the money they asked?), like many other businessmen, started to be threatened by ETA with anonymous life-threatening letters. He has spent 7 and a half years in Argentina where he, his wife (Emma Suárez), and 19 years old pretty daughter with a very-strong Argentinian accent (Verónica Echegui). The movie starts when the three members of the Garai family return to Gipuzkoa by plane and arrive to the international Airport of San Sebastian (actually located in Hondarribia, where the protagonists will stay with wealthy grand-mother). The protagonists' only brother (a left-wing pro-independence ex-town councillor who is now fed-up of ETA's violence) is cancer-stricken and is going to die very soon, they quarrelled and have been distanced for political differences, but now they will sort of reconcile. The bed-ridden brother is married to a secessionist but sensitive Basque woman, who is also working-class and a plastic artist who paints a portrait of his niece (Verónica Echegui). They have a handsome teen son who is a pelotari or Basque ball player, or wants to train to become one; and a much younger daughter. The film portraits a Basque Country of small towns in which ordinary people are often whether active intolerant and rage-stricken Basque secessionists or rather defencive and afraid of ETA; and in which ETA is apparently killing innocent people everyday; where brainwashed Basque youngsters do ordinarily destroy telephone boxes, bank cashiers, or burn urban buses. People who are killed by ETA are portrayed as very ordinary good-hearted, human, tolerant and friendly people. For instance, no clues are given as to understand what it is that the case of a very nice journalist victim wrote or did that made the terrorists so furious to the point as targeting him as eventual victim. The movie portraits the Basque Country's small town as an extremely difficult place to live due to the social control exerted by ordinary people radicalised by ETA, but these scenes of extreme street violence look an exaggeration for a story that is supposed to take place in 2008: it looks more like a 1980's or 1990's Basque Country. It is also unbelievable that someone who receives life-threatening letters from ETA would refuse any police bodyguard, even when his wife is insisting that he should. The two protagonists are this Basque industrialist and his nephew, and the uncle's character is portrayed as a family-man, very human and with very good-intentions trying to fulfil the promise he made to his dying brother that he would save his pelotari nephew from ETA partisans' brain-washing. Implicitly, he might be the ultimate good-honest Basque man, who is misunderstood by his community and hated by evil secessionists. I understand that at present day it is difficult to make a politically balanced movie about the Basque conflict, specially when the Spanish state and other local televisions are financing your work. So I expected such ideological bias. Anyway, I think the director succeeds in the choice and direction of actors, that dialogues and images were well put together, and in spite of the commented shortcomings watching the movie was rather entertaining and not a waste of time. However, although many scenes and specially secondary characters (e.g. young actors of Basque soap-opera Goencale mixing Basque and Spanish in their dialogues; the somehow cliché but effective character of the Catholic grand-mother, gossip in the shops...) do at times succeed at giving the movie some local taste, the movie fails (or is not even interested) to grasp the underlying issues of the Basque conflicts. In a well played and touching scene the now widow aunt has to account why she persists in worshipping her brother (a member of ETA who died in prison) and invites her niece (Echegui) to join a street celebration to pay homage to this "victim of Spanish police's repression". He is someone described as a ETA's hit-man by the charming and cheerful teen's mother (Emma Suarez), who is stressed, traumatised and hates the town and its ETA-sympathiser dwellers. This artist aunt is also allowed to explain why she hates the Spanish repressive forces: it is justified as the result of torture she suffered in their hands. So the film tries to show a deep concern and broader scope to analyse different positions in the Basque conflict, but at least it actually manages to be an entertaining fiction work. If you do not expect to find an accurate analysis of the Basque conflict, you might enjoy some aspects of it: say the Basque sites and the charm and beauty of some young and middle-aged members of the cast.