With “Women on a War Footing,” documaker Susana Koska adds another valuable piece to the ever-expanding jigsaw of Spain’s collective memory. Via the recollections of a group whose members have spent much of their lives suffering and in exile, a moving portrait emerges of a generation that was doubly suppressed under the Franco regime — first for its political beliefs, secondly for being women. Foreign auds may struggle with the multiple political references, but there’s enough sheer humanity here to ensure that pic will receive a warm welcome in political and femme fest sidebars.
The eight interviewees include Neus Catala, a wartime nurse who went into exile in 1939 and was later in a concentration camp; Maria Salvo, who spent 17 years in various jails; and the sisters of the last man to be executed under the Franco regime in 1974. Their reflections range from specific anecdotes to the kinds of more general reflections that only bitter experience can provide. Telling footage is interspersed with the interviews, and music by Koska’s husband, Spanish rock star Loquillo, adds a further layer of emotion with its updated versions of ’60s protest songs.