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The Mexican Suitcase (2011)

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The story of three lost boxes known as the Mexican Suitcase that were recovered in 2007. The boxes, misplaced in the chaos at the start of WWII, contained many of the Spanish Civil War ... See full summary »

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The story of three lost boxes known as the Mexican Suitcase that were recovered in 2007. The boxes, misplaced in the chaos at the start of WWII, contained many of the Spanish Civil War negatives by the legendary photographer Robert Capa and fellow photographers Gerda Taro and David "Chim" Seymour. Written by Official site

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24 August 2013 (Japan)  »

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Discovery of lost negatives from the 1930s Spanish Civil War.
2 April 2013 | by (Houston, Tx, USA, Earth) – See all my reviews

On the surface this is simply a documentary film about the eventual recovery of thousands of B&W negatives from the Spanish Civil War that lasted almost 3 years from 1936 to 1939. But it is so much more than that, it is a fascinating and well-drawn story of the people affected by the war.

As the film makes clear, the people of Spain rarely ever discuss the war itself, I suppose because it was so traumatic to all of them, but perhaps also because even though it "ended" in 1939, the effects have never ended.

After it became clear that the rebels were going to win the war, many of the vanquished fled over the mountains to France, for they knew that if they stayed in their homeland they would likely face execution. But the beaches of southern France were almost like a prison camp to them, cold and without shelter or food and thousands died.

One of he few nations to come to their aid was Mexico, welcoming them with open arms. Many, many thousands of Spanish refugees sailed to Mexico, and stayed there, and their children, Spanish by ancestry are now part of the population of Mexico.

Which brings me to the title of this film, "The Mexican Suitcase." Black and white negatives of three war photographers, most prominently Robert Capa, had been stored in three boxes which had made their way via suitcase to Mexico with the refugees back in the 1939 or 1940 period. But they were lost, no one knew what had happened to them, or even if they still existed. Until the 1990s when they were discovered in the belongings of a recently deceased Mexican general. The negatives, the "Mexican Suitcase", and eventually in 2007 made it over to the International Center of Photography in New York, partly because Robert Capa's brother, Cornell Capa, was associated with it and it was thought he was the rightful heir to his brother's long lost negatives.

This documentary naturally focuses highly on the photographers and the recovered images. However it also focuses on many of the remaining survivors, who were children during the war, plus their children and grandchildren. It contains many interesting interviews, with English captions for those not spoken in English.

I am a photographer and I found it to be a superb documentary. I have quite a number of old B&W negatives as well as color slides from the 1970s and 1980s, and sometimes wonder if anyone will find them useful after I am gone.

I saw this on Netflix streaming movies.


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