Weaknesses in structure and some parts of delivery but still interesting and accessible slice of local history
Over seventy years ago in 1937, four thousand Basque children were evacuated to Southampton in the wake of the bombing of Guernica during Spain's bloody civil war. With no help from the government of the time, local people in southern Hampshire organized accommodation, food and clothes for the refugees. Five years in the making - the film tells their extraordinary story with eye witness accounts, previously un-screened archive film and dramatic reconstructions.
Yet again BBC4 justifies the money spent on it and yet again makes me bemoan the small viewing figures it gets. It does this by giving me another interesting documentary on a subject I knew nothing about. In 1937 the British Government decided that to organise and look after the children of the Basque town of Guernica would represent intervention in the Spanish Civil War as it would in theory have strengthened the Basque people against Franco. However this mixed logic meant that, while 4000 children were evacuated to England, the Government of the day put no money towards their residency. This film looks at how the children became something of a political embarrassment to the British and a problem in regards getting them back to their former lives years later.
The telling of this period of history is interesting even if there are clear limits in the budget in doing it. At its best the film uses archive footage to compliment the historical summary provided by an expert as well as first hand experiences from a couple of those who were among the refugees. However it doesn't all work that well and the "dramatic recreations" are pretty poor and add so little to the film that I wondered why they bothered with them at all. The mix of history and personal doesn't totally merge into one telling that well either, with the two styles working against one another at the same time and the structure of what is trying to be achieved not totally clear.
That said though it is still an interesting film despite the weaknesses in structure and some of the delivery. Worth seeing because it is an interesting slice of history that I suspect many, like me, will be unaware of.
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