It is amazing to find out that the Christians who were conquered by the Muslims were not bitter against those who were once their enemies. Some of them were even Mosarabs, the so called "would be Arabs," who adopted the language and the culture of the Arabs. They lived in Toledo, along with the Christians who adopted the Muslim religion, the Berbers, Moslems, but not Arabs, the Arabs from Syria and the Christians who kept their culture and religion. A place where both Spanish and Arab were used in different fields can only be forever celebrated and presented to the whole world today as often as possible. Unfortunately, history is doomed to repeat itself. One cannot help but think of the irony of the cradle of civilization that gave birth to one of the most frightening institutions of Christianity: the Spanish Inquisition.
Toledo, the capital of Spain, during the Visi Gothic rule, is a city said to have been founded by a group of Jews and their king, in 440 BC. Others say it was founded by the direct descendents of Noah himself. Two legends point to a Jewish root of one of the most wonderful cities of Spain, the most catholic country, after Italy, since king Ferdinand and queen Isabella defeated the last Moors in Granada.
The fact that the Muslims allowed all the other religions and culture to coexist and blend in the peninsula, led to some very important cultural conquests for the whole world. Texts from the classical Greece and Rome were brought into Europe through the translations made in Spain, the most brilliant Jewish community of the time worked thrived and disseminated its knowledge and skills throughout the country, Christian monasteries and Muslim philosophers, doctors, mathematicians and astrologers worked and studied in Spain during the Middle Ages, enjoying the maximum of freedom possible at the time.
The film brings mingles historic information with the artistic support of sound, image and story and recreates a fraction of what it once was the cradle of civilization.
4. The Conquest of Mexico
The film presents the image of pure evil, one of the most atrocious acts in the history of human civilization. Montezouma, head of the Aztec confederation, was deceived into thinking that the new arrivals were bringing Quetzalcoatl, the god that was to return and take over the leadership.
A story about the conquest of Mexico had nothing good to present the audience. Everything is about destruction and lack of understanding. The Spaniards were unable to understand a different culture, thus concentrating exclusively on their quest for fortunes: precious metals and jade.
A striking observation stuck to mind: the beauty of those Aztec objects made of precious metal or jade meant nothing to the conquistadors, they were just looking for the material they were made of. I remembered having recently visited a museum of Pre-Columbian art and being fascinated by the art in those objects. One is lucky enough that there are still a few to be seen in museums, after they had been melted down or transformed in different object by Hernan Cortez' people.
The film emphasizes that the year America was discovered by Christopher Columbus coincided with the year king Ferdinand and queen Isabella defeated the last Muslims in Spain: the Moors in Granada. The Christians fought the Muslim for eight centuries in the Iberian Peninsula and the times they were peacefully coexisting during the Middle Ages were long forgotten.
The film is clearly avoiding to tell a tragedy using the modern means of film making destined to produce tears in the eyes of the viewer. It tells the tragic story of a civilization that "did not need to be discovered."
The clash between civilizations was disastrous for those who could only use wooden weapons to protects themselves against the iron of those who were coming from the "civilized world." The pictures used to support the story of the battles between the Spaniards allied with Clascaltecs and the Aztecs are as dreadful as the words. Children, Men and women cut to pieces, hunted like beasts, entire populations wiped out. There is nothing heroic about these battles and the images are like paintings of the world in hell.
A nineteen-year-old Cortez would not have been expected to understand anything from the novelty of a new and completely different civilization. He was just lucky enough to have the power of the more advanced weapons and the support of those natives who were the enemies of the Aztecs. The film makes the whole process of the conquest of Mexico easy to comprehend. Everyone knows something about the ancient cultures in Central and South America before Columbus discovery. Cortez is a name that rings a bell for most of the people, even if they could not go into detail. The film puts things into perspective and links together certain historic facts in a successful the attempt to tell the story as objectively as possible.
Although not explicitly, Cortez' character is presented as one who deserves to stand in the gallery of all those infamous figures in the history of humanity: tyrants, dictators, mass murderers.
5. Eduardo Galeano
First impressions: I wished he kept talking for hours. I fell in love with him.
The film starts with images form Montevideo, Uruguay. The musical support is destined to create s sense of watching a film form the future or about the future, a SF.
Il mundo se sta convirtiendo en un gran manicomio" sais the writer. "The world is turning into a big insane asylum." The next images will show him, in a narrow cut. The blue dominates the picture: his eyes, his shirt, accents in the decorations behind him. It is an image dominated by steel. Yet, his eyes, although blue, like steel, are expressing anything but indifference and cold. His monologue could be part of a discussion between friends who spend one afternoon together and tackle topics up-to-date, like: the climate change, the military industry, women, world poverty, divinity, nature, the destruction of the native cultures found in Central and South America, in the sixteenth century, China, queen Victoria, the importance of the word, silence.
The speaker, Eduardo Galeano, seems to be speaking an universal language. Anyone who paid attention to his word could understand and identify him or her self with him, at least, in some issues he discusses. He talks as if he is putting his soul on the table. Some would say it was the easiest way to talk to someone: talk from the soul, without dressing the words with useless clothes.
The Uruguayan writer seems to drop small rocks, but the effect they have propagates much deeper in the lake than just the surface. They his hard and are destined to make the listener ponder. Everything he sais seems incredibly common sense. He does not play with words and it is obvious that he has a deep respect for the word.
The word is at the heart of this sort of monologue. Eduardo Galeano begins with a remark about the high significance of the word and the complete disregard for its importance nowadays and it end with another comment regarding the word.
The monologue is supported by a few images of his books, his face in various poses, a few images from his youth, people he is discussing with various occasions, friends, acquaintances, maybe strangers, too. The portrait is complete, without an abundance of pictures or movies. At some point, Eduardo Galeano describes his amazement in front of those clear lines drawn by the prehistoric man on the walls of the caves. His portrait is made in the same style of simple, clear, almost abstract lines of an unimaginable beauty.
The viewer is able to get a glimpse of the bare soul of Eduardo Galeano. He is also presented with an Eduardo Galeano young, in love, with a beautiful young women in his arms, may just a friend, but nevertheless, a woman. The authors of the portrait, together with their subject himself do not seem to be willing to hide something in their material. They do not attempt to create a superhuman or a man that is too ordinary. They let Galeano's words talk for themselves and just punctuate it with an image and a sound here and there.
6. Juan Peron
The documentary presents Juan Peron in the context of Argentina's history over the last six decades. It is deprived of all the artifices of an artistic presentation and it has nothing romantic about it. The usual spectator knows more about Evita Peron than about Juan Peron, his other two wives or his legacy.
The material begins with images of war, dictators and military leaders, like Hitler, and Stalin, but also Churchill.
It is a material destined to offer some basic information about Juan Domingo Peron and the role he plaid in the recent history of Argentina. His destiny appeared to be…