When Asturias was independent or the memory in flight of the Civil War

Sunday, 29 November 2020 – 10:40

After passing through the Gijn Festival, director Ramn Llus Bande presents ‘Cow mooing among ruins’ at the Cineteca, a film exercise against oblivion thanks to the legacy of the photographer Constantino Surez

Image from the legacy of the photographer Constantino Surez used in ‘Cow mooing among ruins’.

Just over 80 years ago, in the midst of the Civil War, Asturias was independent. Or part of it at least. On August 24, the Interprovincial Council of Asturias and Len, the regional authority in which the left parties and unions were represented, decided to take power and solemnly proclaim what, after the fall of Bilbao and Santander and with the Government of the Republic displaced in Valencia and concentrated in the defense of Madrid, it is already a fact. They are alone. It was a move as desperate as it was misunderstood. Extravagant insanity for some and latest evidence of resistance to fascism for others. ‘Vacant brutebeasts between the ruins’, from Ramn Blueberry Bande, take back that strange, convulsive, controversial, fierce and, worst of all, forgotten time. The result is a dazzling portrait that is both mist and wound. “Beyond judgments, what caught my attention and what pushed me to approach that period in history was the feeling of loss, the inexplicable erasure of an event like this from democratic memory “, reasons the director who has just presented the film at the Gijn Festival and that on Sunday he will do the same at the Cineteca de Madrid.

The film advances across the screen in a calculated stillness between reverie and the din of endless war. Much of the legacy of 9,000 negatives left by photographer Constantino Surez supports a narrative in which political speeches, emergency telegrams, texts from the newspaper ‘Avance’, official statements and the detailed description of a precipice called Sovereign Council that lasted exactly 54 days. Each photograph emerges as a crack in the veil of time, I call it that, by which the harshest and most incontestable truth responds to fable. Indeed, fiction is summoned into a story that in its own despair would be said to be invented, almost mythological. But everything, with each of his heroics and atrocities, happened. And that’s what counts: the need to remember.

And in the center, the always controversial figure of Belarmino Toms. “He is undoubtedly the most important politician in Asturias of the 20th century”, the director comments, without hiding a perfectly conscious enthusiasm. And, therefore, controversial. The leader of the ‘Government’ or of the ‘Republic of Asturias’, in both ways – depending on the side – called himself between admiration and contempt for this independence by force, was one of the leaders of the Revolution of Asturias and therefore sentenced to death, sentence later commuted. Before he was in charge of the first socialized mine in Asturias and later, much later, exiled in Mexico where he died in 1950. “It is misunderstood, the tons of forgetfulness that fell on him”, Bande sentence.

The film lives all of it in the fever of some photos on which the narration of the events runs. They are instantaneous in their radical sense. For each of them, the moment emerges perfect. With each of its imperfections even. “We have used many of the discards even from the photographer”, comments the director, “to underline the feeling of process, of construction”. Of life, goat add. Next to the colossal air images that want to be unique testimonies, the details of a daily life of suffering, struggle, hope and, once again, forgetfulness emerge in all their clarity, precision and even beauty. And it is there, in the day to day, in the moment by moment, in each moment, where ‘Cow mooing among ruins’ becomes great. And all this thanks to the indelible memory of the work of a photographer who, after the war, had his license removed and even the author of his work. “The cinema can also have the character of an act of reparation”, adds Bande. And so it is. Every photo hurts.

Walter benjamin I wrote in ‘Thesis on the philosophy of history‘that what prompts us to rebel against injustice has never been the dream of freeing our grandchildren from all our mistakes, but the memory of the slavery of our elders. “From heaven,” wrote the German thinker a thousand times quoted, “a hurricane blows that entangles itself in the wings, and which is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This hurricane pushes him irresistibly into the future to which he has turned his back, as the mountain of rubble in front of him grows skyward. ” And, indeed, something of this cyclone of the past possesses this film bent on a memory too common, for shared, that it insists on fleeing.

“In every construction of history there is an intention. My father was from the naval sector here in Gijn and he experienced a brutal conversion that was forgotten. It would be advisable to avoid repeating mistakes. They knew that Asturias was lost but it was a fight that had to be given “says the director.

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