This intriguing documentary from Manuel H. Martin is engaging from start to finish. Nominated for the Best Documentary Award at the 2012 Goyas, 30 Years of Darkness (30 años de oscuridad) uses pleasing animation to illustrate the stories of ‘moles’ that were forced to hide away due to the Franco regime after the Spanish Civil War.
The focus is on the astonishing life of Manuel Cortes, a socialist former barber turned Mayor of Mijas, and the remarkable ordeal he underwent during thirty years in confinement. With the help of his wife Juliana, he hid in the walls of their Spanish home, always with the possibility of being discovered. Only she and his father knew of his whereabouts, his presence was even kept secret from his young daughter for several years. He had to peer at her through a small hole, unable to embrace or play with her. Jesus Torbado co-wrote the book that tells Cortes’ story, and along with different historians enlightens the viewer on the historical background (essential information ashamedly, in my case) in an accessible fashion.
Cortes’ experience is an inspiring statement of how far a man would go to escape death, yet it also pose the question; is a life lived in such a way worth living? Sadly but unsurprisingly, other ‘moles’ mentioned had fought with madness and taken their own lives. Each man had his own methods of making life bearable. One man, hidden in an attic for decades, enforced upon himself a strict regime of reading and learning.
Cortes, much to his wifes dismay, coped by simply peering out of the window at life passing by in the street below. Obviously, this was a huge risk. He would also listen to the radio religiously, using it to speculate about the fate of the world around him, and listen out for any indication of a changed situation in Spain when he would be a free man.
Distress and fear was not restricted to the men themselves. Their wives and children underwent serious psychological stress and pressure in an attempt to keep such an important secret. Villages were divided as trust dissipated. Cortes’ wife burned all photographs of her husband, only for one of her neighbours to hand one in to the authorities in an attempt to appear on the side of the Franco regime. If a woman became pregnant, she had to fabricate numerous lies to fight off raised suspicion.
30 Years of Darkness will certainly give your daily woes some perspective. These are tales of loss, humanity and the repercussions of war and dictatorship. It is recommended as an intimate insight into extraordinary lives and as a means to learn about crucial aspects of Spain’s tortured past.