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Memory and migrant solidarity in Icíar Bollaín’s En tierra extraña

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Icíar Bollaín’s 2014 documentary, En tierra extraña, represents the experiences of Spaniards who have emigrated to Scotland in the wake of the financial crisis. Following the onset of the crisis in 2008, unemployment rates in Spain reached unprecedented heights, and since then increasing numbers of Spaniards have elected to search for employment opportunities abroad. By relating their experiences, En tierra extraña suggests that this contemporary wave of emigration is the result of Spain’s failure to establish a democracy free from the legacy of the Franco dictatorship. The film puts the experience of twenty-first-century Spanish migrants in dialogue with the history of Spanish emigration of the 1960s under the Franco dictatorship and more recent immigration to Spain beginning in the 1980s. This article focuses on the film’s use of memory and makes two arguments. First, that the film strives to engage the audience in its political project by drawing an empathic comparison between current Spanish emigration and that which occurred during the 1960s. And second, that the film’s less explicit aim of encouraging empathy for contemporary African and Latin American migrants in Spain by comparing them to Spanish emigrants overlooks the ways in which the former group’s experiences are conditioned by questions of race and legal status.
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Keywords: Migration; crisis; memory; race; solidarity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of World Languages and Literatures, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2020

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