Pedro Almodovar opens Venice film fest with tribute to those who disappeared under Franco
VENICE, Italy — Spanish director Pedro Almodovar shines a spotlight on the tens of thousands of people who disappeared during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship in his latest film “Parallel Mothers,” which opens the Venice film festival on Wednesday.
The film, starring Penelope Cruz as one of two women giving birth in the same Madrid hospital on the same day, is a reflection on motherhood and the importance of family ties. But it also dwells on a painful chapter of Spanish history that the country is still struggling to come to terms with.
Almost 50 years after the death of the general Francisco Franco, more than 100,000 victims of summary executions during the 1936 to 1939 civil war and the authoritarian rule that followed remain buried in unmarked mass graves dotted all over Spain.
The majority were Republicans or leftist sympathizers killed by fascist forces, and their relatives seeking a dignified closure have often received little help from Spanish authorities to locate and excavate their remains.
“I wanted to give this topic visibility, and I believe that in Spain after 85 years, until we’ve paid this debt we owe to the ‘desaparecidos,’ we will not be able to close the chapter of our recent history,” Almodovar told reporters.
He said Spain was still reluctant to confront its troubled and divisive past, despite some steps taken by the government in recent years to fund the locating of mass graves and the identification of the dead.
“We can’t just close our eyes in front of what happened,” the 71-year old Oscar-winning filmmaker said after a press screening ahead of the official presentation on Wednesday.
In the film, Cruz plays Janis, a single woman near her forties who unexpectedly falls pregnant, just like teenager Ana, whom Janis meets in a hospital on the day they are each due to give birth to a baby girl.
Their lives become increasingly intertwined when the man Janis had an affair with asks for a paternity test, while she also looks for help to exhume the body of her great-grandfather, murdered by Franco’s forces.
Cruz, an Almodovar favorite who says she decided to become an actress after seeing one of his films at 16, said Janis was her most complex character so far and she felt very privileged to work once again with the filmmaker who helped make her a celebrity.
“I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, being able to work with him for so many years, seven different projects and so many different characters,” Cruz said. “I respect him too much to bombard him with requests but I know that when he thinks a film is right for me, he’ll call.” JB
Erik Matti on global premieres of ‘On the Job’ sequel, series: ‘A new world for cinema in PH’
Erik Matti’s ‘On the Job: The Missing 8’ chosen as PH entry to Venice Int’l Film Festival
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.