Basilio Martín Patino. La décima carta: beloved memory
by Alfonso Rivera
- Virginia García del Pino's documentary rescues one of the most free-thinking, perceptive and militant directors of Spanish cinema during the final years of Francoism
Last night, at Matadero Madrid, the fourth edition of the Márgenes Festival (read news) was opened. During the event, the Special Award for Independent Spanish Cinema went to Gonzalo Suárez, but also, Basilio Martín Patino. La décima carta [+see also:
film profile] (lit. the tenth letter), the documentary directed by Virginia García del Pino, was screened out of competition. This trans-media festival thus resuscitates two of the most interesting Spanish directors of the twentieth century; two filmmakers, pioneers in the fight for the values of independence, courage and adventure that this festival proudly proclaims.
Basilio Martín Patino. La décima carta is the first instalment in the documentary series Cineastas contados, which – hosted by Canal Plus and Paramount Channel – creates an inter-generational dialogue: between contemporary and past directors, teachers and students in the film industry. A cinema project that takes the French Cinéastes de notre temps as a model and that will continue to let the young audience know just who the daring forgers of modernity really were.
In this first chapter, screened in the Zabaltegi section of the last San Sebastian Film Festival (read more), we hear Virginia García del Pino inviting M. Patino to write the tenth missive to complete the Nine letters to Bertha, the debut movie by the Salamancan. The latter, showing admirable modesty and rationale, refuses to be the centre of attention and the focus of the camera as he walks around his city and the countryside. With the creator in his environment, all distance broken and invited into his home, to travel with him to Madrid, we will begin to enjoy the hazy and once-in-a-life-time memories of the director of trilogía clandestina.
Peppered with an interesting unpublished interview with the director, dated 1982, the documentary – filmed over a year – draws a parallel between BMP's reality and his movies and even copies the production film that he used particularly in Canciones para después de una Guerra (lit. Songs for after a war). Rummaging through his books, files and old movies, with García del Pino's camera always nearby, the 84-year-old Patino – relentlessly struggling against his elusive memory - reminds us of the ups and downs of the country that was Spain... and still is, even if it doesn't wish to be seen. While his cinema was a blow to the sleeping public conscience, this documentary doesn't just recognise it, it forcefully defends it.
With input from León Siminiani and Fernando Franco, and produced by Pantalla Partida and Tierravoz Producciones, La décima carta is divided into ten sections, the ten letters that Patino writes with his legacy, including notably Queridísimos verdugos, filmed under the terror of the dictatorship and screened at the death of the Caudillo (title of the movie that will complete the trilogy), in which the history of the garrotte is explored and – moving forward decades to The Act of Killing [+see also:
film profile]– we meet three executioners from the oppressive state that Spain once was.
Courageous movies like this aren't made anymore, but Basilio Martín Patino. La última carta awakens our desire to recover that type of cinema.
(Translated from Spanish)