The Mexican Suitcase

filed19 Jun 2013 from Carmen Jenner CategoriesCultural, Perth, Western Australia

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How fortuitous for a suitcase containing thousands of lost negatives from the Spanish Civil War to be found by a film-maker. In fact, the story of the journey of the suitcase is interesting on its own, but not nearly as fascinating as its contents.

As war survivors share their horrific tales, The Mexican Suitcase incorporates many of the retrieved photos into the documentary with disturbing images of ravaged corpses, boy soldiers with rifles, women performing hard labour and sad-eyed children.

Almost every Spaniard alive today has a relative who was affected by the Spanish Civil War, but curiously no-one talks about t. It’s not taught in school and the history books have few details. Never has the phrase, “Lest we forget,” seemed more pertinent.

On first inspection The Mexican Suitcase, may not seem relevant to an Australian audience. However, as the story unravels you can’t help but be touched at how Mexico opened its shores and hearts to thousands of Spaniards fleeing the war and seeking asylum. In fact, the generous locals (many who were impoverished themselves) greeted them on the docks with cheers and applause, shared their food, helped with the processing of their documents and took them into their homes. If nothing else The Mexican Suitcase provides an opportunity to reflect on the “boat people” currently heading to our own shores.

Perhaps the fragmented storyline was a deliberate attempt at following the crumbing details of history? There are countless stories at play, for example the photographers themselves are also heroes who were often situated on the front line and worked closely with the soldiers during battle. Talk about suffering for your art, especially for Gerda Taro, and one can only imagine how difficult it would have been for a woman during this time. Her comrades David “Chim” Seymour and Robert Capa, who was known as the “Indiana Jones of photography,” were equally fearless.

Compelling, heart wrenching and shocking, The Mexican Suitcase is a story of hope and photojournalism at its finest. Screening internationally, for more details go to

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