This film was an earlier success for Ken Loach and his team. It won a number of European Awards including the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. It did not win any awards in the UK or USA. In fact, as has often been the case with films directed by Ken Loach, the film performed better on the Continent, especially in Spain and France, than in the two major English Language territories. There are ironies in the producing countries, since the Spanish, German and Italian regimes were all involved in the Civil War depicted in the film, whilst Britain [like the USA] stood on the side-lines, essentially supporting the force who are enemy in the film.
The Civil War was that between the Fascist regime that staged a coup d’état against the elected Spanish government in 1936 and the coalition of left and liberal forces of the Spanish Republic defending the land and the freedom of the Spanish people. This was the great cause in the 1930s and many politically committed British men and women went to Spain to fight and often die in the defence of the Republic.
One of these was the writer George Orwell and the film is clearly strongly influenced by his account in Homage to Catalonia (1938). In the film Liverpudlian David Carr [Ian Hart] goes, like Orwell, to Spain and joins the left-wing Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification. The film features battles between the Fascists and the Republicans, but it also features political confrontations and debates. As in Orwell’s book the film takes the side of the combined Marxist/Anarchist POUM against the dominant republican factions led by the Partido Communista de Spain (Communist Party of Spain). The film is rather simplistic about the political conflict among the republicans. As the film essays the Communist Party was dominated by the rather reactionary political line of the ‘United Front’. However, the opposition, embodied in POUM, had serious political problems as well. Continue reading