Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Clandestinos" is an impressive Spanish thriller about the Basque issue

There is a little known political thriller from Spain, directed by Antonio Hens, written with Gabriel Olivares. It’s titled “Clandestinos,” and is listed on the database for TLA Releasing here although the DVD doesn’t seem to be out yet.

The story concerns a teenager or very young adult Xabi (Israel Rodriquez) who breaks out of a Spanish prison, accepts the friendship of a young Muslim (Mehroz Arif) fellow prisoner, and tries to develop his skills as a Basque / ETA revolutionary to impress his teacher Inaki (Luis Hostalot). Along the way he occupies Inaki’s old Madrid apartment, takes down a Spanish flag in Columbus Circle in Madrid, and gets in numerous chases and escapes. In one episode he works as a hustler. We always like the character for his passion, energy and charisma, even if he is doing “bad” things.

As in other political oriented LGBT films, the idea that Xabi is “gay” is almost an afterthought, except that his devotion to Inaki seems to have driven his loyalty to Basque causes.

The film makes lively use of its Madrid and surrounding locations, and looks impressive and professionally made, with its 2.35: 1 aspect ratio. European life looks like American life: there is wealth, and there is some squalor. There are cops and car chases.

The world as a whole does not understand Basque separatism, and I’m not sure that it still remains the issue that it was. The film suggests that Basque separatism and radical Islam (Al Qaeda) could come together.

I visited Bilbao and San Sebastian in May 2001, including the Guggenheim museum. I had a suite in the Navarro hotel in Bilbao for $100 a night. Being there makes one feel that was is on another planet, like America but somehow very different and far away. I do think the film could have benefited from having some locations in the “Euskadi” area. The Basque province even has a commuter railroad between the two cities. The ETA headquarters were only a few blocks from my hotel, but all was quiet then. Bilbao also has its own subway.

There is a lot written about the mystery of the origin of the Basque people and language, but, judging from my visit in 2001, I could not identify any consistent pattern in how they "look" that distinguishes them. I remember a conversation with a Basque waiter in Lourdes, France about the separatist issue.

I watched the film on Logo Online, but the last segment (the ninth) did not play. The playback script kept returning to the beginning of the film. I emailed Logo and it tells me it is working on the problem.

I someone learns it has been fixed, I would appreciate a comment here.

This is an impressive film. It out to have a theatrical run, it is of potential Oscar or Golden Globe quality.

There was a feature film by this name in 1987 from Mexico, about Cuba, no relation to this film.

Update: Jan 2, 2010

The last segment has been restored. The playback now shows in full 2.35:1 aspect on a proper wide screen computer (like the Dell XPS 1630). The last scene has a plot twist involving Xabi, and some stunning Pyrennes scenery. Logo now plays the full end credits, and the film was shot on location in several cities in Spain.

Playback URL is here.

This film is highly recommended for theatrical exhibition (ly Landmark, AMC Select, etc.)

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