The Basque nationalist clandestine organisation ETA (Euskadi (e)Ta Askatasuna, Basque country and Freedom) emerged in the late 1950s but entered the Spanish national consciousness on December 20, 1973 with the spectacular assassination of the designated political heir of Francisco Franco, Admiral Carrero Blanco. Since the death of Francisco Franco and the end of his dictatorship in 1975, ETA has been the central theme of no less than 50 movies. These films encompass different genres from thrillers, melodramas, comedies and B movies, to social realism and documentaries. Some of these films adopt a clearly militant tone while others strive to introduce a more subtle and reflexive approach to the thorny issues of violence and conflict. Intentionally or not, they are all engaged in some discussions of legitimacy, blame and responsibility as much as they are all imbued with issues of representation, the imaginary and sincerity.They all say something about the changing nature of Spanish and Basque cinematic depictions of ETA and the long lasting Basque conflict.
A direct description of political violence in general and of the Basque clandestine organisation ETA (Euskadi (e)Ta Askatasuna, Basque Country and Freedom) in particular was hardly feasible in Spain before 1975, even during the period of relative and gradual liberalisation of the Francoist regime in the 1960s when an alternative and clandestine cinema emerged. After a thorough and relentless film censorship during the first phases of the Spanish dictatorship where only war epics and historical extravaganzas celebrating the glories of Spain and the heroes of the Civil War were funded and promoted, the 1970s and the subsequent political transition after the death of Franco in 1975 open the path to a new era for Spanish cinema but also for a Catalan and Basque film industry. Censorship was abolished in Spain by Royal Decree on 11 November 1977 and that was certainly a pre-condition of the creation of new forms of cinema after decades of scheming obliqueness. Since the now classical films produced in the late 1970s by José Luis Madrid (Comando Txikia, released in 1976), Gillo Pontecovro (Ogro, released in 1979) and Imanol Uribe (The Burgos Trial in 1979 and Escape from Segovia in 1981) until Lasa eta Zabala produced by Pablo Malo and released in 2014, ETA has been the central topic of no less than 50 Spanish and Basque movies [see the list below].
It is not a consistent cinematographic trend since the mid-1970s. The way how ETA and the Basque country have been portrayed in these films changed over time but in many ways it followed the political and social fluctuations of the Basque and Spanish societies themselves. Comando Txikia, Muerte de un Presidente (Commando Txikia, Death of a President), produced in 1976 by José Luis Madrid and Ogro produced by Gillo Pontecorvo in 1979 are historical reconstructions of the assassination of designated political heir of Francisco Franco, the Admiral Carrero Blanco. With El Processo de Burgos (The Burgos Trial, 1979) by Imanol Uribe dealing with the famous 1970 trial of ETA activists, these are the very first attempts of a liberated Spanish cinema to engage with the most immediate historical moments of a political transition still in the making. They were quite audacious attempts but also perhaps presenting a rather naïvely heroic perspective on ETA and its fights against the Francoist regime. Yet, these films reflect many of the tensions one could feel within the ranks of Basque nationalism by the end the 1970s, caught between the bullet and the ballot box. As such, Imanol Uribe’s La Fuga de Segovia (Escape from Segovia, 1981) reflects the political movement of many Basque radicals from armed resistance under Franco to cultural militancy under democracy. Based on the personal account of the escape by Ángel Amigo Quincoces, Uribe’s film is a turning point in the depiction of ETA toward a less heroic tone and a somewhat more sarcastic critique of Basque nationalism and Spanish democracy that one will found in La Muerte de Mikel produced by Uribe and released in 1984.
The 1980s witnessed a diversification in the cinematographic approaches to ETA and to the political situation in Spain and in the Basque country. Eloy de la Iglesia’s El Pico (The Shoot, 1983) is a steady analysis of the Spanish society and of the Basque political scene through the eyes of a young heroin addict, son of a Guardia Civil officer. Los Reporteros (The Reporters, 1983) directed by Iñaki Aizpuru is also an excellent testimony, between fiction and documentary, of the difficulties experienced by Basque nationalists at the time. It illustrates the difficult choices facing a new generation of Basque intellectuals and artists when the live televising of the aborted military coup of February 23, 1981 in Spain strengthened the view that despite the end of the dictatorship, the sound of Francoist jackboots was pretty much still lingering around. Pedro Costa Muste El caso Almeria (The Almeria Affair, 1983) follows the same inquiry by recreating the trial and conviction for murder of three Civil Guards who had shot three men in cold blood, thinking they were ETA militants. With la Muerte de Mikel (the Death of Mikel, 1984) Imanol Uribe not only confirmed that he was one of the most well-known Basque filmmakers but also opened the path to a wave of more critical and engaged filmmakers. Through the life of an unhappily-married young pharmacist involved in Basque nationalist politics, Imanol Uribe ushers his viewer into the labyrinth of desire, revolutionary politics and violent confrontations. The depiction of the private and political lives of members of ETA and of the tension between loyalty and friendship, affective ties and discipline is also central in Ander y Yul (Ander and Yul) (1989) by Ana Díez. Bizkaiko Golkoa (the Bay of Biscay, 1985) by Javier Rebollo is also quite exemplary of this new cinema emerging in the mid-1980s and interrogating the myths, tensions and the memoir of Basque nationalism. Perhaps far away from that more intellectual movement, Goma-2 (Killing Machine, 1984) by José Antonio de la Loma is still an interesting testimony to that period. Goma-2 is a strange mix of spaghetti western and action packed adventure with a touch of ETA with Chema, an ex-member of the Basque organisation who became a truck driver and embarks on a bloody campaign of revenge. Despite its B movie qualities, Goma-2 is the first commercial film to discuss the issue of pardon and the politics of reinsertion of ex-members of ETA into Spanish society.
The bulk of films emerged at the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s when Spanish society was starting to revisit the consensus on the success-story of the democratic transition. It was also a time when the first demonstrations against ETA’s violence emergedand when dissident prisoners but also ex-members of the Basque clandestine organisation still in exile were publicly expressing strong views on the need to stop the spiral of violence. These films were produced alongside a massive editorial boom in academic and non-academic publications on ETA, the Basque country and the conflict. In the Basque country, the 1990s saw the emergence of a new wave of filmmakers who were keen on introducing a different view on how to portray but also to engage more deeply with the complexities and nuances of Basque nationalism. With Vacas (the Cows, 1991) Julio Medem was perhaps the first to engage in a de-mystification of Basque nationalism and of the Basque conflict.
Three main broad themes emerged in this new cinema dealing with ETA and the Basque country in the 1990s and early 2000s. The first theme is centred on the issue of belonging, commitment and disillusionment but also of sentimental and existential dilemmas with Sombras en Una Batalla (Shadows in a Battle, 1993) by Mario Camus, Uribe’s thriller Días contados (Running Out of Time, 1994), A Ciegas (1997) by Daniel Calparsoro, El viaje de Arián (Arian’s journey) (2000) by Eduard Bosch, Yoyes (2000) by Helena Taberna or the adaptation of Bernardo Atxaga’s novel Zeru horiek (Those Skies) (2005) by Aitzpea Goenaga, Clandestinos (clandestine) (2007) by Antonio Hens and Todos estamos invitados (We are all invited) (2008) by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón. The second broad theme across the cinematic production of the 1990s is more centred on the intermeshed links between Basque nationalism, Basque geography, the landscape and the transmission of the memory of the conflict and the victims’ testimonies with films such as Vacas (1991) and The Basque Ball: Skin Against Stone (2003), both directed by Julio Medem, States of Terror (2000) by Arthur MacCaig, Trece entre mil (Thirteen Amongst a Thousand, 2005)and El infierno vasco (Basque Inferno, 2008) by Iñaki Arteta, Asesinato en Febrero (Assassination in February, 2001) and Perseguidos (2004) by Eterio Ortega Santillana, La casa de mi padre (Black Listed) (2008) by Gorka Merchán and Mientras los niños jugaban (While Kids are Playing, 2011) by David Fontseca. The third theme is centred on particular historical re-enactments where filmmakers took different historical events as a point of departure in order to play with the conventions of the documentary and the thriller: El Lobo (Wolf, 2004) and GAL (2006) by Miguel Courtois, Sanfermines 78 (2005) by Juan Gautier and José Ángel Jiménez, Cell 211 (2009) by Daniel Monzón.
This list would be incomplete without mentioning Acción Mutante (Mutant Action, 1993) by Alex de la Iglesia. This film does not really belong to one of these broad categories. It is arguably a unique filmic object in the cinematic landscape mixing science fiction, comedy and film noir. Yet it is a cult classic of the 1990s and the very first attempt to bring comedy to the issue of violence. The protagonists of Acción Mutante are a collection of politically radicalised disabled men who have formed a “mutant action” clandestine group to carry out guerrilla warfare on a culture obsessed with fitness and beauty.
With ETA’s call for a permanent ceasefire in 2011, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of films dedicated to the organisation, its history and its actors has increased exponentially. Al final del túnel – Bakerantza (The Light at the End of the Tunnel, 2011) by Eterio Ortega is a full-length documentary about ETA’s ceasefire. Using first-hand testimonies by people whose lives have either revolved or are still revolving around the consequences of the Basque conflict, Eterio Ortega Santillana takes a close look at Basque Nationalist roots and offers spectators a group of experiences, emotions and stand-points that allow us to glimpse the end of suffering and hopes for peace, freedom and reconciliation. Dragoi Ehiztaria (El Cazador de Dragones) (2012) by Patxi Barko is a remarkable fiction on the doubts of a militant of ETA and ¿Por quién no doblan las campanas? (For whom the bell does not toll? 2012) by Maite Ibáñez tackles the memories of violence in the late period of the Francoist regime. Umezurtzak (The Orphans) (2013) directed by Ernesto del Río focuses on how past events disturb the memory and the possibility of forgiveness while Asier ETA biok (Asier and I, 2013) by Aitor Merino and Amaia Merino tells the story of the friendship between Aitor and Asier Aranguren from their time growing up together in the conflict-affected and politicized 1980 of Pamplona; One became a filmmaker and the other joined ETA.
This outburst of new documentaries and movies does not mean that this effort of depiction of political violence in general, and of ETA in particular, is universally accepted. It took four years and a great deal of difficulty for Helena Taberna to realise her film on Yoyes (2000) and to see her work recognised. In 2003 Julio Medem’s Basque documentary La pelota Vasca (Basque ball) sparked bitter controversy:
La pelota vasca, from its premiere, triggered an irrational, violent response in many sectors of the Spanish state and some sectors of the Basque Country, particularly from the conservative Partido Popular (PP) both within and outside the Basque Country”.
When in May 2015 Jordi Évole interviewed the ex-member of ETA Iñaki Rekarte on his popular Spanish show “Salvados”, it set the social networks alight. In a recent interview for CNCine (National Film Board of Ecuador), Amaia Merino, co-author with her brother Aitor of Asier ETA biok (Asier and I) expressed her view on the situation:
One has to keep in mind that for the Spanish State, ETA is taboo. It provokes discomfort and, why should I not say it, visceral hatred. Everything is confused and through the State’s discourses and the media everyone is pushed to believe that independence and ETA are the same. It encourages the idea that being Basque means to be part of ETA and that ETA is a band of murderers who kill because they are mad and sick or because they are poor and thugs. It is so simple and so unreal”.
The judgment might be harsh considering the extraordinary and diversified production of Spanish and Basque movies on ETA. Yet, it says something extremely important about the pervasive nature of the conflict that these 50 movies echo perfectly: any depiction of the violence goes with views on the conflict. As noted earlier, these films encompass a wide range of genres. Some of these films and filmmakers have achieved international recognition such as El processo de Burgos (The Burgos Trial, 1979) by Imanol Uribe, Ogro (1979) by Gillo Pontecorvo, Yoyes (1999) by Helena Taberna, La pelota Vasca (Basque ball, 2003) by Julio Medem or Trece entre Mil (Thirteen among a Thousand, 2005) by Iñaki Arteta. Others such as Los Reporteros (The Reporters, 1983) directed by Iñaki Aizpuru, Goma-2 (1984) by José Antonio de la Loma or Bizkaiko Golkoa (1985) by Javier Rebollo are still rather unfamiliar outside the ranks of Spanish or Basque cinema aficionados. Some of these films are adopting a rather clear militant tone while others strive to introduce a more reflexive approach to the thorny issue of violence and conflict. Intentionally or not, they are all engaged in some discussions of legitimacy, blame and responsibility as much as they are all imbued with issues of representation, the imaginary and sincerity. They all say something about the changing nature of Spanish and Basque cinematic depiction of ETA, but also, and perhaps more importantly, they all say something about the complexity of a Basque conflict which is both imagined and performed and not over yet.
Big screen – list of the Spanish and Basque films on ETAWhat follow is a chronological (and almost comprehensive) list of Spanish and Basque films in which ETA and the conflict in the Basque country are the main subject matter and characters:
- Comando Txikia (Muerte de un presidente)(1976) by José Luis Madrid
- The Burgos Trial (1979) by Imanol Uribe
- Ogro (1979) by Gillo Pontecorvo
- Escape from Segovia (1981) by Imanol Uribe
- Los reporteros (1983) directed by Iñaki Aizpuru
- El Pico (1983) by Eloy de la Iglesia
- La muerte de Mikel (1984) by Imanol Uribe
- Goma-2 (1984) by José Antonio de la Loma
- Golfo de Vizcaya-Bizkaiko golkoa (1985) by Javier Rebollo
- Ehun metro (one hundred meters)(1986) by Alfonso Ungría
- Ander y Yul (Ander and Yul)(1989) by Ana Díez
- Vacas (1991) by Julio Medem
- Sombras en una batalla (1993) by Mario Camus
- Acción mutante (1993) by Alex de la Iglesia
- Running Out of Time (1994) by Imanol Uribe
- A ciegas (1997) by Daniel Calparsoro
- Yoyes (1999) by Helena Taberna
- El viaje de Arián (Arian’s journey) (2000) by Eduard Bosch
- States of Terror (2000) by Arthur MacCaig
- Asesinato en Febrero (assassination in February) (2001) by Eterio Ortega Santillana
- The Basque Ball: Skin Against Stone (2003) by Julio Medem
- El Lobo (Wolf)(2004) by Miguel Courtois
- Perseguidos (2004) by Eterio Ortega Santillana
- Olvidados (Forgotten)(2004) by Iñaki Arteta
- Trece entre mil (2005) by Iñaki Arteta
- Zeru horiek (Those skies) (2005) by Aitzpea Goenaga
- Sanfermines 78 (2005) by Juan Gautier and José Ángel Jiménez
- GAL(2006) by Miguel Courtois
- Clandestinos (Clandestine) (2007) by Antonio Hens
- El infierno vasco(Basque Inferno) (2008) by Iñaki Arteta
- Todos estamos invitados(we are all invited) (2008) by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón
- Tiro en la cabeza (Bullet in the Head) (2008) by Jaime Rosales
- The Broken Window(2008) by Eñaut Tolosa and Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font
- La casa de mi padre (Black Listed) (2008) by Gorka Merchán
- 48 horas (48 hours) (2008) by Manuel Estudillo
- Cell 211(2009) by Daniel Monzón
- Tchang (2010) by Gonzalo Visedo and Daniel Strömbeck
- El precio de la libertad (The price of freedom) (2011) by Ana Murugarren
- The Light at the End of the Tunnel in the Basque Country(2011) by Eterio Ortega
- El asesinato de Carrero Blanco (The assassination of Carrero Blanco) (2011) by Miguel Bardem
- Mientras los niños jugaban(2011) by David Fontseca
- Dragoi ehiztaria (El cazador de dragones) (2012) by Patxi Barko
- ¿Por quién no doblan las campanas? (2012) by Maite Ibáñez
- Barrura begiratzeko leihoak(2012) by Josu Martinez and Eneko Olasagasti
- Umezurtzak (The Orphans) (2013) by Ernesto del Río
- Asier ETA biok (Asier and I) (2013) by Aitor Merino and Amaia Merino
- Lasa eta Zabala (Lasa and Zabala) (2014) by Pablo Malo
- Echevarriatik – Etxeberriara (2014) by Ander Iriarte
- Negociador (negotiator) (2014) by Borja Cobeaga
- Fuego (Fire) (2014) by Luis Marías
. Jordan, Barry, and Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas. Contemporary Spanish Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998
. Miguel Fernández Labayen & Xose Prieto Souto (2012) Film workshops in Spain: Oppositional practices, alternative film cultures and the transition to democracy, Studies in European Cinema, 8(3): 227-242; Roselló, Roberto Arnau. “los Colectivos cinematográficos en la Espana Tardofranquista: militancias, transgresiones y resistencias”, Doc On-Line: Revista Digital de Cinema Documentário 15 (2013). Available online at : http://www.doc.ubi.pt/15/artigos_roberto_arnau.pdf
. Davies, Ann. “Male Sexuality and Basque Separatism in Two Films by Imanol Uribe.” Hispanic Research Journal 4.2 (2003): 121-132. Evans, Jo. “Imanol Uribe’s La muerte de Mikel: Policing the Gaze/Mind the Gap.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 76, no. 1 (1999): 101-109
. Omar G. Encarnación (2014) Democracy Without Justice in Spain: The Politics of Forgetting. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press
. Funes, Maria J. “Social Responses to Political Violence in the Basque Country Peace Movements and Their Audience”, Journal of Conflict Resolution 42, no. 4 (1998): 493-510
 . El Pais, “Un preso ‘histórico’ de ETA pide a la organización que acabe la violencia”, 15th of November 1990; Isidro Etxabe Urrestilla (aka Zumai) is the first, while being in jail, to declare publicly the need to stop the violence. See http://elpais.com/diario/1990/11/15/espana/658623608_850215.html
. Mitchell, PhiliP. “Remembering the present: Iñaki Arteta’s Trece Entre Mil and the transmission of grief.” Studies in Hispanic Cinemas (new title: Studies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas) 8, no. 1 (2012): 3-18
. Buse, Peter, Núria Triana-Toribio, and Andrew Willis. The cinema of Álex de la Iglesia. Manchester University Press, 2007
. Larreta, Carlos Roldán. “’Yoyes’: historia y vicisitudes de un proyecto cinematográfico”, Sancho el sabio: Revista de cultura e investigación vasca 34 (2011): 135-158
. Labanyi, Jo, and Tatjana Pavlović, (eds.) A companion to Spanish cinema, John Wiley & Sons, 2012, p.93
Central issues will be: i) The role of Postmodern feminist and Latin American feminist (literary) debate ii) representations of sexuality, gender roles, transgression iii) The heritage of political and social repression, censorship and oppression (e.g. Spain, Mexico, Argentina) iv) the impact of democracy and belated/accelerated modernization from the 1960s in e.g. Spain, particularly for the representation of sexuality and gender roles v) iconographies of ‘latinoness’ and globalization in the context of e.g. Puerto Rican music vi) Hybrid identities in the context of Puerto-Rican and Chicano transcultural/border (lesbian) identities vii) Reception of cultural production
Students from different study programmes and with different interests could be attracted to this module as it covers a rich variety and range of materials: theoretical writing, film, poetry, novels, photography and prints.
Teaching and learning methods
The lectures will relate the cultural products to their specific Spanish and Spanish American historical context, and will introduce you to key critical and theoretical debates. You will be encouraged to assess these debates critically, and will be provided with lecture summaries indicating key points for further study and reflection. The lectures will invite you to think about specific issues covered and you will be asked to think further about these issues in your own independent study time. Through class presentations, and guided debates, you will develop communication, problem solving and team working skills. You will develop research skills and methodologies by using library and internet resources. The seminar classes will provide you with an opportunity to discuss, in a group, the issues raised in the lectures which will also give you a chance to evaluate cultural production using various theoretical frameworks. The first written assignment (an essay) will assess your ability to construct and develop a sustained argument, drawing on appropriate evidence, and applying insights gained from independent reading of existing critical studies and of relevant feminist theory. The second written assignment (critical analysis) will assess your ability to critically evaluate an excerpt from a text. The third assignment (presentation) will test your capacity for teamwork and allow you to demonstrate interpersonal skills by working with other students, by problem solving, information gathering and presenting findings collaboratively. Teaching methods include: • Lectures • Seminars (including compulsory student presentations and group discussion) Learning activities include: • Close reading and analysis of varied forms of cultural expression • Debating in class theoretical issues and differing interpretations of the texts • Constructing arguments for presentation orally and in written work • Independent research and study
Resources & Reading list
Dir Alfonso Arau (1991). Como agua para chocolate.
Medeiros-Lichem, Maria Teresa (2002). Reading the Feminine Voice in Latin American Women's Fiction.
Tong, Rosemarie (1989). Feminist Thought: a Comprehensive Introduction.
Dir Pedro Almodóvar (1990). ¡Átame!.
Laura Esquivel (1985). Como agua para chocolate.
Rosalind Gill, ‘Postfeminist media culture: elements of a sensibility’’.
Mosquita y Mari (2012). Aurora Guerrero.
Castillo, Debra (1992). Talking Back. Toward a Latin American Feminist Literary Criticism.
Shaw, Debra (2017). Transnational Cinemas: Mapping a field of study’- for the Routledge Companion to World Cinema, edited by Rob Stone, Paul Cooke, Stephanie Dennison & Alex Marlow-Mann.
McRobbie, Angela (2007). Post Feminism and Popular Culture: Bridget Jones and the New Gender Regime. In: Diane Negra and Yvonne Tasker, eds. Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture. Duke University Press, pp. 27-39.
Pornography and censorhip.
(2011). Feminism and Media in the Post-Feminist Era. Feminist Media Studies. ,11 , pp. 0.
Jess Butler on McRobbie: Review.
Howson, Alexandra (2004). The Body in Society : an Introduction.
Baumgardner, J., & Richards, A. (2004). “Feminism and femininity: Or how we learned to stop worrying and love the thong.” In A. Harris and M. Fine (Eds.), All About the Girl, pp. 59-69.
For resources which are required or considered useful for the module: key texts, text books, data books, software, web sites, other sources of related information..
Dir Helena Taberna (2000). Yoyes.
Humm, Maggie (1994). A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Feminist Literary Criticism.
Feminism and Globalization.
Castillo, Debra (1992). Talking Back. Toward a Latin American Feminist Literary Criticism.
Chávez-Silverman, S. and Hernández, L. (eds.) (2000). Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American, and Spanish Culture.
Ana Clavel (2000). Cuerpo náufrago.
José Regina Galindo. Performance, poetry, blog.
Anzaldúa, Gloria (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
Tong, Rosemarie (1992). 'Postmodern Feminism' in Feminist Thought: Introduction.
Wittig, Monique (1986). The Lesbian Body.
Peter Barry (1995). 'Feminist Criticism’ and ‘Lesbian/gay criticism’, in Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory.
Butler, Judith (2004). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990) and Undoing Gender.
Frances R. Aparicio and Susana Chávez-Silverman, eds (1997). Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representation of Latinidad..
Diverse Latina Icons (e.g. Vergara) + Puerto Rican Hip Hop + Angie Martínez (Puerto Rico) (examples on CD will be made available).
T. M. Scorzafava (2011). Slip Away.
Tong, Rosemarie (1992). Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction.
Chaudhuri, Shohini (2006). Feminist film theorists: Laura Mulvey, Kaja Silverman, Teresa de Lauretis, Barbara Creed (Routledge critical thinkers).
Williamson, D (1999). ), ‘Language and Sexual Difference’, in The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality.
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|Essay (2000 words)||45%|
Repeat type: Internal & External