The University of Oviedo closes a conference on cinema with the music of 'Raza', the film that Franco wrote

The University of Oviedo plans to end the conference on cinema that will take place on September 15 and 16 with the soundtrack of the film Raza, inspired by a story by Francisco Franco himself. This is stated in the program of the second edition of the International Congress of Cinema and Identities. Cultural Industries, Musical Flows and Transnational Discourses, held in the building of the Faculty of Psychology. Experts from different parts of the world participate in the event and debates are held on topics related to the cultural industry, music and cinema in education or cinema and propaganda.

Pictures stolen by the Franco regime hang on the walls of a ministry

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A program unlikely to cause controversy until the final touch of the conference: the concert Memoria nostalgica del cine español: de Raza a Bienvenido Mr. Marshall performed by the Asturias Symphony Orchestra at the city's Príncipe Felipe Auditorium-Congress Palace.

Raza is a 1942 film directed by José Luis Sáenz de Heredia and inspired by a story by Jaime de Andrade, who was none other than the dictator Francisco Franco hiding behind a pseudonym. The film, which was financed with state money, tells the story of four brothers belonging to a family with a military tradition from the point of view of the winning side of the Spanish Civil War. The soundtrack is signed by Manuel Parada, author in addition to the music of The Last of the Philippines (Antonio Román, 1945), which will also be performed in the aforementioned concert.

To the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, which published a tweet referring to the event, what bothers them is the presence of the word “nostalgia”. Emilio Silva, president of the entity, tells that: “Raza is a film with which Franco tells himself as part of the cast of the great builders and saviors of Spain. In other words, there are the Catholic Monarchs and then him. Being nostalgic for that cinema is a bit of a beast”. For him, it is valid to play the film and explain what it is, but to interpret its soundtrack in a symphonic concert without context, no. "And there is no filmography in Spain to have chosen the film Raza in a film and identity course."

The University of Oviedo @uniovi_info closing II International Congress of Cinema and Identities with a concert. The soundtrack of Raza (1941), dictator Francisco Franco's vision of the history of Spain, will be performed. "Nostalgic memory of Spanish cinema", they call it.

— Memory_ARMH (@ARMH_Memory) September 14, 2022

Both the Asturias Symphony Orchestra – which has declared that the recital is a commission and do not assess its content – ​​and the conference management have sent the questions from this medium about 'the controversy' to the University of Oviedo. Its communication representative Judit Santamarta explains by email that "the musical selection of the closing concert of CICI 2022 is linked to the new trends in Spanish musicological studies in recent decades, focused on recovering and critically analyzing music from classical Spanish cinema produced under the Franco regime.

Likewise, he remarks that the scientific criteria that promoted this selection “are based on referents of the musical composition of the cinema of the period. This has led to the inclusion of everything from works politically affiliated with the regime such as Raza to dissident films such as Bienvenido Mr. Marshall”. And regarding the title of the concert, he clarifies that “it does not allude to a political context, but refers to the discussions within the academy about the experiences of the audiences. At no time has a political intention been sought, only the critical recovery of these materials.”

The edges of the approach

Pablo Batalla, historian and author of the book The New Wineskins of Spanish Nationalism (Trea editions, 2021), believes that "possibly the organizers of the congress are not Francoists and that it is possibly true that they did not intend to make an apology for the Regime" but that the concept of 'nostalgic memory' also presents a problem according to his appreciation. “By taking it to the limit, we have memory of Auschwitz, but not nostalgia for Auschwitz. Nostalgia is a hypermnesia of the initially positive aspects of the past, coupled with an amnesia of the negative ones”, he maintains. And he emphasizes a detail of the statement from the University of Oviedo: “in putting Race in the same bag as Welcome, Mr. Marshall —the one from Spanish cinema— I see another trap that occurs in many other places: involving the vindication of aspects of Francoism in a supposedly magnanimous vindication that also covers issues related to the Republican side”.

Silva finds it striking that no one “set off an alarm” when they saw that the symphony orchestra was going to perform the film's soundtrack. The information came to them through a guest person, who did not even mention the subject of "nostalgia", only the programming of the tunes. “Just like when someone writes to us because there is a Franco plaque, well, someone wrote to us telling us about this. Then we read about nostalgia”.

Both he and Batalla indicate that the 1940s were terrible in Spain. “At that time a lot of people were shot, there were thousands and thousands of political prisoners tortured. The film was born to justify all that and it seems even pathological to me that it could generate nostalgia for someone from a minimally democratic point of view, ”says the president of the ARMH.

Batalla takes a quote from Enrique del Teso, who says that “One cannot internalize that one loves King Kong except for that part about the giant ape”, to explain that nostalgia can never be political. A person cannot like the film devised by the dictator Francisco Franco except for the issue of fascist propaganda. “Under no circumstances can Raza be evoked in a friendly way, that intends, as this concert seems to intend, to instill feelings of joy in the spectator”.

The Desbandá massacre, a “free pass”

This is not the only complaint that the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory has had this week. The same September 14 pointed at his Twitter account a phrase that the University of Malaga used to advertise on its website the exhibition La Desbandá, 1937. From Malaga to the Pyrenees, organized by the institution, the Unicaja Foundation and the Secretary of State for Democratic Memory.

The text refers to a "free path left by the rebel troops to flee from the bombing." For Silva, it is not the way to qualify him. “It seems that they had opened a humanitarian corridor but that is where they were massacred. It was a corridor to select who had to bomb. To those who stay in Malaga, no. To those who flee because we fascists arrived, yes”

The president of the ARMH considers that these cases are due to the fact that in this country the political culture is still "degraded" by Francoism. This means that as there is a "lack of democratic culture", no one is surprised when these types of episodes occur. "These things behind have a lack of construction of values, but we are like a hammer, we scan what remains of Franco's culture." From what has been seen this week, they do not lack work.

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