Icíar Bollaín / 2014 / Spain / 77 mins
The 2014 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival opens with the UK premiere of Icíar Bollaín’s In a Foreign Land (En Tierra Extraña) – and in this powerfully moving documentary, Bollaín gives a voice to some of the 20,000 Spanish people who have moved to Scottish capital.
The film focuses on the consequences of the shocking statistic that near 25% of the Spanish population is unemployed. Poor pay and limited opportunities have meant that, for many Spaniards, to emigrate means to survive. Forced out, they feel cheated by the Spanish system, with years of education amounting to nothing. Hearing a young woman say that she earns more as a housekeeper in Edinburgh than as a chemical engineer in Spain is appalling, yet is a blunt dose of reality, highlighting the severity of the crisis.
What makes this film so poignant is its intimacy, how raw the emotions expressed are. Throughout the film, the image of a lost glove is used as a metaphor to represent Spaniards who have emigrated: the idea that you have been torn away from your other half. For some, they have not only been separated from their family and friends: they have lost a part of themselves. One woman describes her life living in Edinburgh as being an abridged version of herself. Although you admire the individuals who remain optimistic, watching a woman cry over having to leave her ill mother is heartbreaking. While the film is very personal, Bollaín creatively adds a balance between private and public opinion through the inclusion of excerpts from Alberto San Juan’s monologue ‘Self-portrait of a Young Spanish Capitalist’.
Without a doubt, this documentary is an eye-opener to a crisis that is being overlooked by both the media and Spanish government. Until now these people have been ignored, branded a “lost generation” and “silent minority”. This film proves that they are neither lost nor silent. One can only hope that In A Foreign Land acts as the catalyst that these Spaniards need to gain the recognition they deserve.
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