In less than three decades, Spain morphed from a deeply reactionary dictatorship that violently persecuted the LBGT community into the forefront of equality rights. Spaniards more than any other country in the world now believe that homosexuality is morally acceptable, a recent piece of research shows. But there’s still plenty of homework to be done, as the country attempts to reconcile its socially progressive present with its brutal past, and to dissociate amnesty from amnesia.
This clear and concise doc explores the historical memory of Spain using the human remains (the bones in the title) of victims of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the subsequent Franco dictatorship (1939-75) as a symbol of oppression and possible rapprochement with history. The openly homosexual writer Federico García Lorca (pictured above, in the centre) is the most prominent of the 500,000 victims of the dictator, and his body is still in an unidentified mass grave alongside with 120,000 others, the film reveals. Lorca’s writings punctuate the narrative, which is tribute to all of those who died under the oppressive brunt of the Caudillo.
Gay men and transvestites were routinely beaten and arrested during Franco’s Regime, which also subjugated women and violently chastised political opponents and defectors of any type. All with the enthusiastic support of the freedom-loving US, the film also alleges. Upon release from prison, these gay men and transvestites would not be able to reintegrate, and most either committed suicide or resorted to prostitution. Lesbian suffered less oppression simply because the Regime couldn’t even conceive that two women could have sex. They were simply ignored and forgotten, a very different but also painful predicament.
The movie wraps up with a point of contention. While an interviewee thinks that reclaiming bones is a crucial step at making amends with the past (he has located his grandfather’s and reburied them next to his grandmother), García Lorca’s surviving niece Laura thinks that this is disrespectful to other people and to the memory of the site of execution. She believes that these bones – including her uncle’s – should be left to rest where they are.
The famous Spanish actor Miguel Ángel Muñoz narrates the film in both Spanish and English, with his deep, masculine and very Latin voice and accent.
Bones of Contention is showing as part of the 67th Berlin Film Festival, which comes to and end today. DMovies has been following all the action live and in loco, and bringing the dirtiest film firsthand and exclusively for you. Just click here for more information.
And don’t forget to watch the film teaser trailer, too: