What is the price of forgetting? “The Silence of Others” tells us that, for many parts of history, the price of “forgetting” is too high.
“Es simplemente un olvido. Una amnistía de todos para todos. Un olvido de todos para todos. Una ley puede establecer el olvido, pero ese olvido ha de bajar a toda la sociedad. Hemos de procurar que esta concepción del olvido se vaya generalizando porque es la única manera de que podamos darnos la mano sin recor.”
“It’s simply a forgetting. An amnesty by all, for all. A forgetting by all, for all. A law can establish a forgetting, but that forgetting must filter through all of society. We must ensure that this forgetting becomes widespread because it is the only way we can shake each other’s hands without rancor.”
In the film “The Silence of Others”, we see 1977 video footage of these words spoken by a member of the Congress of Deputies, Spain’s legislative branch that meets in the Palace of the Parliament. These words refer to Spain’s Amnesty Law, which placed a final end to Franco’s dictatorship in Spain but also, with the “Pact of Forgetting” (in Spanish, “el Pacto del Olvido”) wiped out the possibility of seeking justice for the thousands of Spaniards who suffered through disappearances, torture, the kidnapping of babies and many other crimes against humanity from 1936 to 1976.
This documentary is beautiful and heartfelt, full of both pain and hope. Much like here in the U.S., we have learned that the price of “forgetting” is too high. As we follow Spanish men and women of all ages—who lost family members or who were tortured themselves—take part in an international tribunal that seeks to bring perpetrators to justice, we learn their stories and how important it is for them to have some semblance of closure.
An overall theme of the film is also the questioning of those monuments, streets and other public spaces emblazoned with the names of the Franco regime’s fascist leaders. We see footage of present-day nationalist movements in Spain today, with citizens chanting “Viva Franco, Viva España” while raising their right hands in the air a la Nazi youth. This, too, mirrors what I see happening in my own country.
For an insightful look into these individual Spaniards’ stories and into the historical reckoning that many people in Spain now seek, I highly recommend this movie. It’s currently available on Netflix, and there are subtitles. Whether you live here in the U.S. like me or elsewhere, my guess is that you will see some of your own country in these scenes. Please let me know what you think if you watch it! I’m curious to hear other peoples’ takes.
Photos courtesy of the East Bay Express and Latino Public Broadcasting.