screen-capture-3Every family has its secrets, its stories that only they can tell but frequently try to ignore. For filmmaker C.M. Hardt that story was about her grandfather. He lived in the small town of El Valle, Spain and following the Spanish Civil War, during the period of an unnamed secret war, he was arrested one night, then taken out and shot. The family home was burned to the ground and his wife thrown in jail. For C.M., the family story was never investigated or explained to her satisfaction and so she decided to go to Spain and find the answers for herself.

Death in El Valle is a very raw and very personal documentary. The camera is with C.M. and her family in Spain when she finds many of them totally unwilling to dig for the truth. And the truth is that someone they knew turned her grandfather in for aiding and abetting the anti-government guerrillas, and for that her grandfather lost his life in 1948. Officially, he died of a brain and pulmonary hemorrhage. The police report said he was “legally” shot while trying to escape, but as former guerrillas tell her that was a favorite ruse of the Civil Guard, to let you go and shoot you in the back for escaping.

The characters here include her great-grandmother who is completely unable to go back to that time, her grandmother who seems somewhat interested, but is also afraid to open that chapter again, her uncle who is entirely annoyed by C.M.’s quest, and lots of other locals who 50+ years after the fact are still afraid to talk about it.

One other person who appears is one of the Spanish Civil Guard who either shot her grandfather or was a part of the group that did. This is perhaps the most uncomfortable scene in the film. You want C.M. to yell; you want him to confess. And since they don’t, it is not entirely satisfying, but then this is real life. Not a fiction. Not the way we’d like it to be. I have great respect for C.M. for having the strength to get this done. Watching it makes you want to know more about the people who he was helping and about the minds of those who turned him in. This film just begins to scratch the surface of a little known point in modern Spanish history. What else don’t we know?

(Full disclosure, I know C.M.)

The full story is at: Death in El Valle

Rent it at Netflix or buy it on the site.

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