S.O.S. by Julio Medem

It has been four months since the premiere of The Basque Ball, the skin against the stone, in which the slogan I have been most forced to say (by defensive alarm), is that the most serious problem of the Basque conflict is ETA, that my rejection of terrorism is resounding, without buts, and that my solidarity and human support for the victims of terrorism is absolute , with no price and no waiting for anything in return. But there are those who think that this is not enough, that it is not good for them, and they reject my solidarity as if it stained them; I am referring, of course, to some members of the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) who have organized a demonstration at the entrance to the Goya Awards to protest the nomination of my film, and against me. I have read in La Razón that there will be a banner with this motto: “Victims of Terrorism against the Basque Ball, the back of the head against the bullet”. In addition, stickers with the slogan : “No al Medem” will be handed out. Honestly, this is too much, the injustice of this situation is already pure delusion. I can’t do it anymore.

This is the first time I have written in my defense after the premiere of the documentary at the San Sebastian Festival. I deliberately preferred not to respond in writing to the storm of daggers that fell on me, especially from the media on the right, and I concluded myself by rubbing my spirits with the countless messages of support, mostly private (I understand perfectly, as the times paint, the commitment to support myself publicly). I thought that nothing else could happen to me with this film, that the worst had already happened, and that the Goyas Awards ceremony could be the final sweet spot (with or without a statuette) of this whole horrific experience.

The first thing I want to make clear is that, to my regret, Cristina Cuesta (president of COVITE, Collective of Victims of Terrorism) refused to participate in my documentary, and with it, the group of victims of its association. Morewise, it was the case that I came to interview Consuelo Ordóñez (sister of the PP councillor killed by ETA), but within a few days he called me not to include her in the montage. I would also like to remind you that in my film there are victims of terrorism to which I have given a deal, more than respectful, privileged. People who accepted my polyphonic film approach, with a staging aimed at inviting dialogue and who didn’t mind sharing montages with ideologically opposed people. These victims are Daniel Múgica (son of Enrique Múgica, councillor of Leitza by UPN killed by ETA), Cristina Sagarzazu (widow of the Ertzaina Ramón Doral), Marixabel Lasa (widow of the socialist Juan María Jáuregui) and Eduardo Madina (President of the Socialist Youth of the Basque Country who lost a leg after an attack).

That is, the members of AVT are not the only victims, although they do seem to me to be the most angry and the most politicized, and those who believe themselves with the real right to identify and give the march of authenticity to the rest of the victims. In my documentary there are even of the same colors, and of others, but they are, dare I suppose, politically more independent. I don’t know what AVT members will think, for example, of Marixabel Lasa, who has several aggravators to be part of his choir. For example, she is the widow of a socialist who fought until her death for political dialogue as a way to resolve the Basque conflict. What times are these when “DIALOGUE” has become a cursed word! The other aggravating, of course, is that Marixabel Lasa (being a socialist) is the president of the Basque Government’s Association of Victims of Terrorism. Don’t tell me any more, those victims aren’t worth it, they’re not up to it. I imagine then that Cristina Sagarzazu, being the widow of an Ertzaina killed by ETA, as a victim in this case itself a nationalist, will have to settle for a middle territory, a purgatory. In addition, she has not mind sharing parallel assembly with the wife of an ETA prisoner (on a trip to Huelva prison), as she understands that this does not mean that they are morally compared or matched.

I want to acknowledge my special weakness for Eduardo Madina (the socialist who lost a leg in an ETA attack). His testimony marks the high point, the moral peak of the film. Madina is a true soul sportsman, a beautiful mountaineer of good faith that I want to set here as an example against so much political-media atrocity; someone, for example, who even when ETA wanted to kill him by putting a bomb in his car, is able to stand in solidarity with Anika Gil, a victim of torture. And as a disgrace I remember the way this is received by the AVT, who only mind that with Anika’s testimony the work of the Civil Guard is being questioned. She’s not a victim either?… They refuse to believe her, and that’s it.

Daniel Múgica is the closest victim to the AVT (and I say it with my best intention to you, Daniel), as he is the son of a Councillor of Leitza by Union of the Navarro People. Match that makes the PP in Navarra but that, fortunately for my film, is outside the central discipline and, freely, agreed to be in the film. I remember here that the People’s Party refused, I would say that, angrily, none of its members were interviewed for the documentary.

I would like to add here the case of another victim of ETA terrorism who participates in the film, although not by lending her opinion but as a co-producer. I am referring to Mireia Lluch, who is the daughter of Ernest Lluch, a socialist killed by ETA who, like Juan María Jáuregui, openly declared himself in favour of dialogue. When Mireia, which I didn’t know, learned that we were looking for funding to sound the film, he asked to see it. The montage was finished and Mireia, after the screening, told me that she had a small inheritance from her father, and that she was sure that he would have liked that money to be contributed to finish a documentary “so necessary” (those were his words). I remind these journalists, who legitimize their lies with false data, that subsidies to my film were denied by both the Basque Government and the ICAA.

The people who refused their participation, these are victims, have been the toughest against my documentary. Since the week leading up to the premiere of the San Sebastian Festival, they declared their rejection of the film without having seen it (they welcomed the comments of Gotzone Mora and Iñaki Ezkerra) and tried to prevent it from opening by asking Odón Elorza to withdraw it. If the mayor had been from the PP, my film would have had serious trouble being born. They have been baiting at pleasure against me, polluting my image, … and I have not been able to respond with a minimum of dignity, as I would have done if that came from people in a “normal” (unre threatened) life situation. More than that, my dignity has made me establish a code of respect for them, which says that as long as a person is threatened with death for thinking in a certain way, I, even if I think radically differently, do not feel ethically empowered to criticize him. This equal-to-equal discussion is postponed (although, frankly, I don’t feel like placing them by the time ETA disappears, which of course I want to see happen as soon as possible).

My capital sin seems to be that the documentary is not exclusively about the suffering of the victims of terrorism. The rest of my sins stem from this one, because if in my film I recognize and discuss the existence of a political problem, according to them I am justifying terrorism, in addition to providing logistical support to the Ibarretxe Plan. It also turns out that I am uncomfortably criminalizable, as I declare myself non-nationalist; there will be those who think that this statement makes me less bad, because I do not say it for that, since there is plural and non-violent nationalism, I know it. As also, and this is criticized in my film, there is nationalism that aims to homogenize “the one who stays inside and expel the different” (Imanol Zubero), or are certain the xenophobic origins of Sabino Arana (Iñaki Ezkerra, Joseba Arregi and Iñaki Villota), or the Ertzaina’s inaction with the Kale borroka (Teo Santos), or the lack of “unequivocal gestures of help and solidarity towards the victims” by nationalism (Iñaki Gabilondo) , or that the PNV has not yet taken over, “that the suffering of the non-nationalist is his suffering as ruler” (Felipe González). Still, for the members of the AVT, I have fallen short, as I have not been able to criminalize nationalism with the brutality with which they do, and I have not made it clear that the worst of Spain’s political ills (after ETA) is the PNV; even in my film it can give the feeling that it is pp (always after ETA), especially if you have not wanted to be inside to explain yourself, or defend yourself.

Someone close (whom they listen to and want) should say sympathetically to the ear of each AVT member that being victims of ETA gives them no more political, or ideological reason, let alone a license to insult, slander or sour the lives of anyone who does not think like them. Yes, someone who truly wants them should take care of going down the flames of hatred and resentment, to prevent their souls, hearts and minds from being irreversibly perished. But I’m afraid the people around you, or are already very poisoned, or are the real markers and guardians of those unionist, patriotic slogans with which this re-Franco Spain is again feeling Great. Someone should alarm AVT members that certain doses of absolutism are being insuffflated from some authority centers. My great inadequacy before them, and so they allow themselves to insult my film and me in an intolerantly macabre way, is to offer them all my support and human solidarity for their personal situation, but not reason. I’m sorry, but that’s a lot to ask, especially when I check how they’re being used politically; I think the PP has made this its favorite dish at this terrifying banquet where, at this rate, our beloved democracy will not leave even leftovers.

After the delivery of last year’s Goya, this same group of victims, together with Fernando Savater (who also declined to participate in my film), harshly criticized “the people of cinema” for the fact that spontaneously some winners said “no to war”, when in the previous ceremonies we had not said “no to ETA”. As if saying “no to war” meant not giving the importance of the heinous murders of ETA, or disrespecting those who are threatened by the terrorist gang. That was used politically to discredit and call into question the anti-war morality of “the cinema”, with the vile argument that it is not worth its no to war since they have never said no to ETA. Does anyone really believe that there are any academics who are not against ETA?… I remember the accusations that the most reactionary press made against Javier Bardem, and in general against all of us who protest against war, spontaneously or through the Culture Platform against War. It seemed that the higher we said no to war, the closer we were to the Etharras. To protest against these accusations by some media, and to protect javier Bardem’s battered image, a concentration of the world of film and entertainment was organized at the Alcázar theatre. There we read a statement in which, on the one hand, we asked that no one force us to speak out against ETA, or against other chronic barbarities (there was also talk of domestic violence or child prostitution…) and that failure to do so did not make us suspects or complicit in anything, and that on the other hand, what united us was the imperative priority , which required all our consensus, so that our NOT great and unique to the Iraq War would be as effective as possible. We were experiencing an acute crisis.

In any case, one of the nine points in the brief was dedicated to condemning joseba Pagazaurtundua’s recent ETA murder, and showing our solidarity to the victim’s relatives. With the Alcazar Theatre full and the media brimming with the stage, after reading the communiqué we repeatedly chanted the famous “NO TO WAR”. Imanol Arias, sitting a row ahead of me, showed the audience a folio that reads: “ETA NO”. And he started yelling at him. Evidently the theater added to the cry. So far, for my part, no problem (Imanol is being told exclusively by this). What was disheartening and troubling was to see what most media did with that act, with the exception of El País, and little else. For example, on the cover of the ABC Imanol Arias came out with the poster against ETA, and I back with the obvious gesture of being accompanying his cry. The headline said that at last the people of cinema had dared to say no to ETA, not to mention that we said a clamorous no to war, the reason for the meeting. By the way, four months later my face came back on the front page of this charming newspaper, with the phrase: “Medem’s film accused of inciting terrorism.” To conclude this issue of covers of the taste of the far right, I will remember that of La Razón the day after the closing of the San Sebastian Festival, in which on an image photograph (from the previous March) with Javier Barden in the first place and, behind, other colleagues shouting against the war, you could read, something like this: “Spanish actors refuse again to say no to ETA”. By the way, Javier Bardem wasn’t even at the Festival. What have some believed to impose on us to say what, wherever and whenever they want?

Those of the Association of Victims of Terrorism have already said that at this year’s Goya ceremony they want to change the no to the war passed by no to ETA, and that they will deliver stickers to the entrance. They know full well that no one is going to dare refuse to put a sticker on which they put “ETA NO”, first because we all agree, but, and taking into account the massive presence of media, to what size will the spontaneity, independence, or freedom that is presupposed to such statements in an awards ceremony be reduced?… And I… what do I do by putting a “ETA NO” on the hands of someone who will bring a “no to my person”?… I will only say that in a situation of absolute freedom, without coercion, I would be delighted. But this nightmare that awaits me is not the case.

What I find most surreal is how my comrades will react when a victim of terrorism offers him a sticker with the “No to the Medem”. I don’t want to see that, and if anyone accidentally walks past my eyes, in advance I promise I’ll make the effort to self-suggestion, to believe I haven’t seen it. This initiative is the most vile and scoundrel thing I’ve ever had.

And there’s going to be candles in my path to remind me of the more than 900 killed by terrorism, and what do I do then… shall I light a candle? They won’t want to. I have already been tried and condemned to the parade of bloodstains, of those who when traveling in Spain risk being told by SPANIARDs of only TV to tell him with their finger (as suspected of the worst), to be cannon fodder of this beautiful press that is growing us. So what… do I look them in the face with a gesture of affection (thinking that I wish ETA had never existed)?… They’re going to turn him down. Or do I try to guess in his eyes how many have seen the film?… It is best to close your eyes and remember the final ovation of the public at the San Sebastian Festival, and above all the embrace between tears of emotion and gratitude that I received from Daniel Múgica (the son of the UPN councilor killed by ETA). Well yes, here too I could hug someone, if they would leave me, I would like… No one will leave me, either, to speak affectionately to his ear; Besides, I run the risk of getting a “No to Medem” sticker on me.

What should I do?… They’re not even going to be thrilled that I dedicate the Goya to them (if they give it to me). I have nothing to do, just endure the most unjust and demoralizing day of my life, Socorro!

Julio Medem
January 29, 2004

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