Raining plaudits

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Ken Loach's new film on the Spanish Civil War has just opened in Spain.

Elizabeth Nash samples reactions in Madrid

Ken Loach's film, Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom) about the Spanish Civil War opened last week in Spain to an ecstatic welcome. Even the monarchist newspaper ABC praised the movie - a hymn to the idealism of young revolutionaries in the early months of the war against Franco - as "an immaculately sincere film, perhaps the most sincere that has ever been made on the Civil War".

Loach's fear that Spaniards might resent an outsider, and a notorious Leftie to boot, telling them their own story proved groundless. "Gracias por todo Mr Loach" ("Thanks for everything Mr Loach") ran the headline of Spain's most influential newspaper El Pais, which also enthused, "It is a work of the highest moral stature and brilliance".

All the key figures in Spain's progressive scene attended the Madrid premiere last Thursday, from the culture minister, Carmen Alborch, through the leader of the pro-Communist trade union federation, to Tomas Gutierrez Alea, the veteran Cuban director of Strawberry and Chocolate.

The Barcelona premiere the following day was less formal, interrupted by cheers from the anarchists and old Trotskyist sympathisers in the audience. Loach squatted in the aisle to give pride of place to his young Spanish militiamen, who had been recruited among squatters, military refuseniks and agitprop street theatre groups.

The only complaint came from the Communist Party - in Loach's words, the Stalinists. Two old party members walked out of the Barcelona screening. Santiago Carrillo, Spain's former Communist supremo and a Civil War veteran, criticised Loach's emphasis as "ultra-Leftist".

But the public loves it. Loach has a huge following in Spain, which goes a long way to explain why the Spaniards put up much of the £2.75m budget of this European co-production. Madrileos are still flocking to Raining Stones and Ladybird Ladybird and I have had intelligent conversations with Spaniards half my age, not only about Hidden Agenda and Riff-Raff but very early Loach films like Kes and Cathy Come Home. They say Tierra y Libertad is the best so far.