“Your forgiveness is a heroic act. You have risen to the heights of Nelson Mandela.”. This compliment was made by one of the most prominent experts in the field of Spanish cinema, José Luis Sanchez Noriega, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid. And he adds to Itziar Bollen: “She is bright and inspiring. She embodies hope.”
Why so much praise for this worthy and modest woman? Because this communist activist had the courage to face her husband’s two killers, two repentant ETA militants, Luis and Ibán, who murdered José María Jauregui in cold blood. In the Basque Country, not many have taken this path, this test of conscience. This is what makes this gesture even more exemplary.
“Maishabel” renamed “Repentant” in France, it is a touching film from which we do not emerge unscathed, and this is undoubtedly what has won it the title of best film at the Spanish Film Festival twice, once by the public, once by a jury of professionals.
“It’s a film that challenges, that moves people, that excites you.” Maysabel modestly admits, surprised and pleased with the success of the film in Spain.
“The strength of the film is the empathy it evokes. The viewer fully experiences the moral contradictions of the characters, their pain, their doubts, their loneliness. says Professor Noriega.
In fact, what’s remarkable about the film is that he doesn’t go for one camp or the other. He shows both the suffering of the victims and their executioners, with great sensitivity, sharp dialogues, heavy silences and meaningful looks that say more than words.
No excuse for violence
“I wanted to give a voice to the victims of terrorism, because you have no idea what they live with: sadness, misunderstanding of others, permanent bodyguards” explains Iciar Bollen, who is signing his 11th film as a director. “And I also wanted to show the personal journey that these terrorist gang dissidents go through as they go from being heroes to traitors, but without justifying their actions.”
Isiar admits he has a lot “trembling” do not cross this red line. “The topic of Basque terrorism is still very sensitive in Spain. I was afraid that the right would reproach me for equating the suffering of victims and terrorists. But in fact, the film’s message is so strong that it makes violence illegal and ETA’s ideal unjustified. 50 years of armed struggle served no purpose other than the destruction of lives.”
Gratitude Instead of Forgiveness
In Mayxabelle’s eyes, this is not a film about forgiveness. Firstly, because she is an agnostic, and secondly, because for her this word has lost its meaning. She prefers to talk about “second chance”.
“What I am sure of is that these people, having realized the enormity of their act, have changed. They will never commit such crimes again.” she confesses. In conclusion: “I regret that in 2012 this restorative justice was abandoned. She allowed to be healed, listening to herself, recognizing suffering. If this had continued, there would undoubtedly have been more volunteers in the ranks of ETA.”
Fanaticism leading to crime
The film touches on many other aspects, in particular the spiral that pushes fanatics towards serial killers. They are recruited and made inhuman. They kill without knowing their victims, drawing lots, and then revel in their killings once the mission is successful. You cannot turn back when they have done the irreparable, otherwise they will be crushed by the criminal machine that makes up ETA.
And the final scene, where we see Iban, one of the two penitents, come and kneel on the grave of Juan Mari in the middle of the ceremony in his memory, is an ode to reconciliation.
“When we presented the film at the San Sebastian Film Festival” Isiar Bollen says “The whole room got up and started singing like in a movie. This scene, which I filmed with real Maysabel supporters, brought a lot of tears, but it is less vivid than the real one that actually took place.
The film, previewed in Nantes, will be released in October in France. Do not miss.