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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Teacher Who Promised The Sea – 105 minutes

Turning back the clock to the horrors of the murderous Franco regime with a highly personal 2010 search, The Teacher Who Promised the Sea is based on fact.

 

The later involves a dying man’s granddaughter desperately looking for her granddad’s father – her great grandfather.

 

It is a hunt that will see the single mother (played by Laia Costa) travel to a site where mass graves have been uncovered.

 

It is there that she meets and subsequently liaises with an elderly man who knew her grandfather.

 

The film juxtaposes revelations of 2010 with a dramatisation of events that occurred between 1935 and 1939.

The major focus is on a gentle and caring teacher who dared to defy the establishment.

 

His name is Antoni Benaiges (Enric Auquer). He is hired to teach in a small, isolated village in Burgos, Spain.

 

There, he establishes a delightful, intense and honourable relationship with his students, boys and girls aged from six to 12.

 

As an atheist, Benaiges’ first order of business is to remove the cross from the wall of the schoolroom.

 

That immediately puts him offside with the surly local parish priest.

 

Parents too are suspicious of his unorthodox teaching methods, which he has brought with him from France.

 

Benaiges creates “magic” with his students through the use of a small printing press, enabling them to craft books.

 

To the children’s wonderment and excitement, Benaiges promises to take them on an end of year trip to “see the sea” for the first time in their lives.

With the best will in the world though, expectation will turn to tragedy.

 

Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Gaudi Awards, celebrated annually in Barcelona, The Teacher Who Promised The Sea is an emotionally wrought drama.

 

While an archeological dig where bones are uncovered starts proceedings, it is the flesh and bones manifestation of that, which takes one aback much later in the film.

 

Its impact is immense.

 

The political undertones of the film are apparent throughout, but the arrival of Franco’s forces in the sleepy village reveals the depth of fear and hatred.

 

My mind wandered back to the extraordinary Academy Award winning film Life is Beautiful (1997).

 

So much promise taken away with utter brutality.

 

Enric Auquer does a fine job as the idealistic teacher that offers so much. He brings a sympathetic edge to his portrayal.

 

A pall hangs over Laia Costa’s role as the granddaughter, as she uncovers clues to a dastardly family story.

 

Director Patricia Font brings into sharp focus the shocking history of a nation that lost so many in appalling circumstances, one still dealing with its traumatic past.

 

The Teacher Who Promised The Sea is the centrepiece film of the Spanish Film Festival (https://spanishfilmfestival.com) and scores a 7 out of 10.

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