1995: ‘Land and Freedom’ released

On 6th October 1995, the Ken Loach film Land and Freedom was released, telling the story of the Spanish revolution and fascist counter-revolution (i.e. the ‘Spanish Civil War‘) through the eyes of a young Liverpool volunteer fighter. The opening and closing scenes were filmed in the city, while the remainder was located in Aragón.

In the story, David Carr (played by Knotty Ash-born Ian Hart) is an unemployment Communist Party member, in Depression-era Liverpool. When he gets the call, Carr enthusiastically joins up to fight with the International Brigades. Though he falls in love with Blanca (Rosana Pastor), his optimism is soon undermined when he witnesses Stalinist repression of anarchists and members of the Trotskyist POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification). Finally, Blanca is killed and the revolution is defeated. Carr returns home with a red neckerchief full of Spanish earth.

Though the battle aspects of the story look like a fictionalised version of George Orwell‘s Homage to Catalonia, some of the most important scenes examine the ongoing dilemmas confronting those fighting on the Republican side, against Francisco Franco‘s fascists. For example, an assembly in a liberated village debates whether to collectivise the land seized from a recently shot priest. An American with the POUM argues that such action risks losing the Republic the support of countries such as the United States and Britain, whereas others forcefully put the opposite case. In the end, the villagers decide to collectivise, and so Loach convincingly shows social revolution in action, and theory being put into practice.

Back in Liverpool, as the film ends, Carr’s granddaughter recites lines from the William Morris poem The Day Is Coming over her grandfather’s grave:

Come, join in the only battle wherein no man can fail/Where whoso fadeth and dieth, yet his deed shall still prevail/Ah! come, cast off all fooling, for this, at least, we know/That the Dawn and the Day is coming, and forth the Banners go’

She and others then join in a raised fist salute. The struggle for land and freedom continues into the twenty-first century.

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