Film director Koldo Serra was surprised that, nearly 80 years after a bombardment by Hitler’s Condor Legion turned the small Basque town of Guernica into an enduring symbol of civilian suffering in war, no one had made a film about the tragedy.
“It was a big surprise for me when I found that out,” he says. “I thought there would be at least two or three others.”
Spanish Civil War films abound, but until now, Serra says, they have almost exclusively concentrated on the conflict as it happened in the south, and not the doomed Basque republican “northern front”. A TV miniseries, Bombs over Gernika, was released in 2012 and a film about the world-famous Pablo Picasso painting inspired by the bombardment, 33 Days, is reported to be in the offing, but no full-length feature about that April day has been made before.
“Being from Bilbao myself, making this film makes me feel like I have an immense responsibility to tell this story well and in a coherent fashion,” adds Serra, who filmed on location.
Much of the film is based on testimonies of the events of April 26, 1937 that were collected by Serra since 2012. “One woman who saw the attack said the planes were flying so low as they machine-gunned fleeing citizens that she could see the pilots’ eyes. For me, accounts like that discredit the stories this bombardment in some way wasn’t deliberate, or that the planes had missed their original targets,” Serra recalls.
Making the film (originally to be titled Gernika, using the Basque spelling) “struck chords. Not everybody is in favor of seeing streets blocked and shops closed for a shoot, but when you mention Guernica, people tell you their cousins or relatives were in the bombardment. It’s still a very important, emotional, subject here.”
On August 2, this riveting war drama, starring James D’Arcy, María Valverde and Jack Davenport, comes to DVD with exclusive deleted and extended scenes. In fact, we share with you an exclusive look at one of the deleted scenes, below.