Monday, 26 January 2009

ENG: A Catalan Student on “Mirant al cel”

I have wanted to see the movie Mirant al cel, by Jesús Garay, for quite some time, but have not been able to find out where to do so. Therefore, I was happy to discover that the Institut d’Estudis Penedesencs were to show it here in Vilanova, as a part of their lecture series on the franquista bombardment during the Civil War.

The plot is about a old Italian expert on the Divine Comedy by Dante, who returns to Barcelona - a city where he considers that he has never been. After all, the young pilot who flew in over the city to drop bombs was not him – it was another person, in another time. And as he was so high up in the air, he never actually saw the city, let alone had to hear the screams of horror and pain by the damage he caused.

However, a Catalan journalist who is collecting eye witness reports by survivors who were in the streets of Barcelona when bombs fell over them, has decided to force him to talk about history. To her, the Italian is one of the few living witnesses of what happened, and she wants him to ask for forgiveness to her grandfather, who fought on the Republican side, defending the city.

Mirant al cel is built up as a fiction movie but incorporates a lot of archive material. I would not have wanted to see it with a lower level of Catalan than what I have today (B) and admit that I sometimes had difficulties to understand the accents, or even more the pronunciation of some of the veterans interviewed in the movie.

In Mirant al cel, the old Italian man wants to see himself and everyone else who lived those terrible moments as victims of a war. The journalist protests that he as a pilot did not lose anything, while her grandfather did not only lose his house, but also his nation and the democracy which he fought for. Today, exactly 70 years have passed since republican Barcelona surrendered to the franquistes but these two perspectives still confront each other in discussions about the memòria històrica. Is it better to forgive and move on, or investigate what actually happened?

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Penedès, Spain, Wirdheim

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