Students learn the hardships of Spain

‘Los Girasoles Cieglos’ was part of the Envisioning Europe series at the College. (Photo by Brian Kempf)

The paranoia and fear captured in Jose Luis Cuerda’s emotional film, “Los Girasoles Cieglos,” characterizes the lives of the liberal Republicans of Spain after their defeat in the Spanish Civil war. The movie, meaning “The Blind Sunflowers,” depicts Spain under the regime of fascist Francisco Franco and how those who disagreed with his beliefs were forced to hide or flee the country to protect their lives.

New Jersey Council for the Humanities had a showing of “The Blind Sunflowers” on Tuesday night. Director of the program and adjunct professor in the history department at the College, Jon Stauff, introduced the movie.

The movie, which was shown to portray the terror and anxiety that swept Spain after the civil war, intertwines the stories of a young couple and their infant fleeing the country, and a man that must hide in the walls of his home to avoid being captured by the police. It also portrays the Catholic Church as corrupt and immoral.

“Los Girasoles Cieglos”, makes a reference to a passage in the bible that describes people who have lost their way, as “blind sunflowers.” As the film unfolds, the characters become a reflection of this statement with a meaning resonates throughout the movie.

The main protagonists, Elena and her son Lorenzo, must continue to go about their daily routines, concealing the fact that Elena’s nationalist husband is alive and hiding in their home. She must also accept the fact that her pregnant daughter has run off with her husband in attempt to escape the oppression.

However, when Lorenzo’s teacher, a priest named Salvador, becomes obsessed with his mother, Elena, it complicates their situation and it becomes more difficult to hide her secrets.

“They want me for what I think. That’s what hurts me!” said the character Ricardo, Elena’s husband, in “Los Girasoles Cieglos,” a passionate phrase from Cuerda’s film which highlights the despair in which liberal thinkers had to endure after the war.

Salvador, the priest, is a representative of the corruptness of the church at this time in history. He was a soldier in the Spanish Civil war who had become disturbed by what he experienced. He expresses his confused emotions to his head priest, who then compares Salvador to a “blind sunflower” who must find the light.

“(‘The Blind Sunflowers’) portrayed the hardship that families had to go through who didn’t believe in what the government wanted them to believe in,” said Tracy Kaplan, sophomore marketing major.

Spanish professor Marimar Huguet-Jerez told the students how the movie was based on two stories from Alberto Mendez’s book, which was published in 2004. The book, like the movie, recapped the sad stories of those who had to hide from society because of their thoughts and beliefs.