An untold story.
The film traces a line from the historical events of 1930s Spain and before to the contemporary escalation of the clash of cultures.
For centuries Spain has always been a country where different cultures encountered and engaged one another, sometimes violently. Today Spain forms the south-western border of the EU. Separating Europe from Africa and the Islamic world, it lies within the focal point of international developments.
The Spanish Civil War has been viewed from many different perspectives: the International Brigades, the involvement of Nazi-Germany, Mussolini's support, the Civil War as a prelude to World War 2, and the 72 countries that took part in hostilities. But the role of Muslim soldiers in this European conflict has never been shown in a documentary film until now. Seventy years later, it is high time to let the survivors -and only a few remain- speak about their experiences. Unwittingly they helped decide the fate of Spain and Europe in a war, in which whoever won, they could only emerge from as Perdedores -the forgotten.
There is a long tradition of European ignorance towards Islamic culture.
For decades our perspective of countries such as Morocco and the Moroccans was determined largely by prejudice.
Caricatures? Nothing new to the former Muslim soldiers. Allegations of bestialities perpetrated by the Berber soldiers played an important role in the propaganda that contributed to Franco's victory. The Berbers, largely oblivious to their bloodthirsty reputation, fell in their thousands during the war, while countless more were wounded. Mimon Kaddur remembers: "We saw the pictures as soon as marched into a village. Drawings showing us with horns and tails. I once saw a picture of a Muslim in a turban with viscous long teeth eating a baby." Ali Toufali adds: "Someone told me that in Salamanca mothers still warn their children that if they don't finish their dinner then Franco's Moors will come and eat them alive. With an upbringing like that, no wonder they think bad of us."
The film includes a sensitive and interesting analysis by Prof. Corrales of several of the repulsive caricatures.
Director Driss Deiback grew up in Northern Africa, in the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
Deeply influenced by his experience of the peaceful co-existence of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the enclave, he seeks to heighten viewers' awareness of the pain and suffering inflicted upon so many when, out of political opportunism and momentary interest, one culture is represented as embodying all that is good while another is vilified.
We are in Castile.
On a barren hill, crowned by a windmill, two old men appear dressed in traditional north-african clothes. Hunched over their walking sticks, they pause for a minute and gaze out across the bleak landscape. They were last here seventy years ago. It is almost as if the thunderous sounds of war still ring in their ears.
Juan Goytisolo - writer, Catalan, born in Barcelona.
Due to his incisive criticism of Catholic Spain he is regarded as a veritable dissident in his homeland. He lives in Marrakech, where he usually drinks his afternoon tea on the famous Jemaa el Fna Square. "One reads that the Spanish people threw the Muslims and the Jews out of the country, but to be truthful we should in fact be saying that the Catholic Spaniards expelled the Muslim and Jewish Spaniards. This propagandistic equation of Catholicism with Spain has always been a cause of suffering and misfortune."