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Spain slowly turns camera on history

Guerin brings 'Work' to AFM

BARCELONA — Spaniards care little for their past, partly because it has been such a calamity. That attitude has carried over to films: Over the last decade, local historical pics were rare and usually box office poison.

But the past is making a comeback in Spain’s burgeoning documentary sector and in films that chart contempo history.

Indeed, Jose Luis Guerin’s “Work in Progress” (En construccion), which traces the erection of an apartment building and how it affects the people in the neighborhood, is being sold at the American Film Market.

Sense of urgency

“The protagonists of the past are soon going to die. Many of the new documentaries coming out of Spain rely more on personal testimony rather than being fact-laden,” says Jonathan South, managing director of Planeta D, Planeta 2010’s startup docu arm. “There’s an urgency now that there wasn’t before.”

More than anything else, for Spaniards, the past means Spain’s bloody Civil War (1936-39).

Spain’s thirtysomething helmers are too young to have a personal stake in that war, freeing them to approach history with a fresh eye. They also have been tapping producers from what remains of Spain’s cultural left.

‘Secrets’ revealed

In Javier Corcuera’s “La guerrilla de la memoria,” produced by director Montxo Armendariz (“Secrets of the Heart”), former maquis reminisce about their armed struggle against Franco, their capture and torture. The vigor of their views and their unbroken ideals prove awe-inspiring.

Now in post, Planeta D’s “The Everyday War” turns on interviews of 22 women about daily life during the war.

Docus or fact-based pics command larger audiences than books in a country that reads little. But they can’t touch mass pulses in the way features do. The 31-year-old David Trueba (“The Good Life”) now is prepping a feature, “Soldados de Salamina,” based on last year’s controversial Civil War best-seller. Its eventual B.O. perf should be indicative of the depths of Spain’s new appetite for its past.

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