Tuesday, 21 February 2012

GFF 2012: The Mexican Suitcase

In the mid-nineties, three suitcases were unearthed in a closet in Mexico, containing negatives long-assumed lost: snaps taken during the Spanish Civil War by Gerda Taro, David ‘Chim’ Seymour, and Robert Capa. While the trio’s iconic photography is front and centre of The Mexican Suitcase, documentarian Trisha Ziff frames this fortuitous discovery as a catalyst for wider analysis of the war’s legacy, mapping the journey made by the suitcases to that of refugees who chose exile to Mexico over life under Franco. Interviews with historians and émigrés offer an array of insights (recollections of French refugee camps are particularly upsetting), while present-day Spanish youth air their frustration at the infrequency of such open national discussion. Capa’s oft-quoted dictum “if a photo doesn’t work then you’re not close enough” is invoked by one interviewee, but Ziff’s film impresses by adopting multiple distances, from the close-up excavation of mass graves to comparatively disassociated art exhibitions, all augmented by co-producer Michael Nyman’s evocative score.

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