In 2007, an American filmmaker living in Mexico accidentally came into possession of three thin, delicate and cracking old suitcases. Contained inside were about 4,500 negatives that had been shot during the Spanish Civil War by brave photographers David “Chim” Seymour, Gerda Taro and Robert Capa, who pioneered a type of photojournalism from within the war zone. It was rumoured that all the negatives had travelled in a single suitcase, with archivists hunting it for years.
Through their images, and expert interviews, director Trisha Ziff focuses in particular on the many thousands of defeated Republicans who at war’s end fled Franco’s advancing forces and ended up emigrating from Spain by the boatload to Veracruz, Mexico.
The Mexican Suitcase is a fascinating documentary which contextualises the discovery of this lost treasure in the history of photography and journalism. Ziff’s narrative meditates on the meanings and ramifications of the Spanish Civil War through the lenses of a galvanic trio of war photographers, whose vivid frontline photography captured the brutal realities of the war. The haunting images are lifted from the screen through several achingly beautiful music selections by coproducer Michael Nyman.
Not screening in Byron Bay.