Franco on Trial is the new documentary film by Lucía Palacios and Dietmar Post. After the success of Franco´s Settlers, their first encounter with Franco’s dictatorship, they now tackle one of the most undisclosed chapters of European history: the allegedly organized extermination that took place in Spain under General Franco’s fascist dictatorship between 1936 and 1975 after he established his power with the help of Germany, Italy and Portugal. To this day no one has been prosecuted for the regime’s systematic atrocities; victims haven’t been rehabilitated. Over 100,000 people are still missing.
After a Spanish judge´s attempt to accuse Franco and his generals for crimes against humanity failed in 2010, Franco’s victims filed a complaint in Buenos Aires, known as “Querella Argentina”. Now for the first time, an Argentinian investigating judge, María Servini, has issued 24 international arrest warrants against high-ranking representatives of the Franco dictatorship. The filmmakers accompany her as she tries to initiate court proceedings against the accused, proving that a reappraisal of Spain’s darkest chapter is long overdue.
Franco on Trial debates specific crime cases presented in the Argentinean Lawsuit. By interweaving never-before-seen archival material with current footage and by delivering a historical contextualization of each case the film itself demonstrates new evidence. In one of the key scenes, the film creates a sense of the impending lawsuit’s actuality when one of the suspected perpetrators is confronted directly with the accusations by the plaintiff, the investigating judge and the plaintiff’s lawyer.
The film has been in the works for over 8 years. During that time the directors managed to gain access to people from both sides of the conflict, including the daughter of a general in the 1936 coup who still counts a silver-framed portrait and personal present of German Nazi-leader Hermann Goering among her possessions.
Franco on Trial reveals an almost forgotten part of 20th century European history and raises the question: Will the so-called “Argentinian Complaint” become a Spanish Nuremberg?