A worthy but oddly unsatisfying look at the brutal government response to worker strikes in the Basque region of Spain in the 70s.
It’s more prosaic but appropriate original title translates as ‘Vitoria, 3rd March’, the day in 1976 where weeks of strikes and peaceful demonstrations to establish better conditions and wages culminated in violent police intervention.
Director Victor Cabaco interweaves low-resolution original footage with handheld camera work to give a sense of authenticity. It is less successful than in Hotel Mumbai but serves to regularly reminds us that the characters we are watching represent real people. It is these characters that personalise the struggle.
Central is the family of journalist José Luis (Alberto Berzal), his wife Ana (Ruth Díaz), teenage daughter Begoña (Amaia Aberasturi) and their housekeeper Loli (Oti Manzano). Begoña has been secretly attending rallies with her activist boyfriend Mikel (Mikel Iglesias). Prosperous Eduardo (José Manuel Seda) pressures José Luis to create dissension amongst the workers by publishing false information. Ana uses a past romantic connection with Eduardo to help her family. The tension escalates as we are privy to government plans to squash the protest with any force necessary.
Unfortunately the narrative of the individual characters veers towards melodrama, with soaring music and overwrought tears. The climax feels false in its emotional drama and any sense of catharsis in the epilogue, where we might hope to understand the toll and what was gained, is lost. I was left wondering what the sacrifice of the workers really gained.
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