Review: ‘Memory Train’

"Memory Train" deals with the officially-sanctioned 1960s mass rail exodus of 2 million Spaniards to foreign countries to work in factories. Docu sensitively patches together newsreel footage and reflections from mostly affable old-timers into a compelling, thought-provoking whole. "Train" should pull up nicely at historical fest sidebars.

“Memory Train” deals with the officially-sanctioned 1960s mass rail exodus of 2 million Spaniards to foreign countries to work in factories. Docu sensitively patches together newsreel footage and reflections from mostly affable old-timers into a compelling, thought-provoking whole, acquiring an extra layer of contempo resonance from the unenthusiastic attitudes of many Spaniards to the immigration issue 40 years on. “Train” should pull up nicely at historical fest sidebars.

The narrative is held together by the train journey of Josefina, revisiting Nuremberg after 40 years. Personal testimony is penetratingly down-to-earth, sometimes moving and occasionally humorous. On their arrival in Germany, workers were given numbers to hang around their necks for identification; they lived in huts, sometimes on the sites of former concentration camps, in often sub-zero temperatures; husbands and wives were separated; and the factory labor was harsh. Later, however, their new experience of living under democracy crucially opened the political eyes of the largely illiterate community. Deftly spliced-together docu is reliant on footage from the host countries, with Franco-sanctioned Spanish images showing the abyss between the way the Spanish government repped the exiles’ lives and reality.

Memory Train

Spain

Production

An Alta Films release (in Spain) of a La Iguana/Oasis P.C production with the participation of TVE. Produced by Santiago Garcia de Leaniz. Directed, written by Marta Arribas, Ana Perez.

Crew

Camera (color), Antonio Gonzalez; editor, Angel Hernandez Zoido; music, Tao Gutierrez. Reviewed on DVD, Madrid, June 18, 2005. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Josefina Cembrero, Leonor Mediavilla, Victoria Toro, Heinz Seidel, Hans Peter Steber.
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