The Basque Ball

Mannered documentary on Basque separatism

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OPENS MAY 7, CERT 15, 115 MINS

A documentary on the troubled history of the Basque region of Spain?where the armed separatists ETA are in conflict with the Madrid government?the film sparked controversy last year in Spain, with boycotts from some of the groups featured.

Much of this will be lost on non-Spanish viewers. Director Julio Medem charts the conflict through talking-head interviews with politicians, journalists and academics?an approach that presumes a lot of pre-existing knowledge of Basque history. There are interesting details, and the testimonies of the ETA victims are moving. But it’s hard to keep up with the babble of acronyms standing for political parties, and you’re left frustrated by the way the interviewees contradict one another (the film has been accused of being pro-ETA through its suggestion that the government are just as bad as the terrorists). An established arthouse name, Medem’s formal approach is typically distinctive. Still, a straightforward documentary would probably have been more illuminating.

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