On Sunday July 25th, People’s Histreh and the Sparrow’s Nest organised a showing of Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom at the Broadway Cinema. The event forms part of a series of events in Nottingham commemorating the Spanish Civil War.
Land and Freedom tells the story of David Carr (played by Ian Hart), a member of the British Communist Party who travels to Spain to fight the fascists. Crossing the Catalan border he meets and joins up with members of the POUM militia. After being injured due to poor quality weaponry, he travels to Barcelona in time to witness the “May Days” of 1937 when Stalinists clash with anarchists and POUM members.
Although fictitious, the story clearly takes inspiration from the experience of George Orwell as recounted in Homage to Catalonia. Both Carr and Orwell fight with the POUM and are injured in time to witness the events in Barcelona. Carr’s story has been developed somewhat with the addition of a hetrosexual love story, providing an emotional core to the narrative. In the film, Carr is also a committed member of the Communist Party, unlike the more independent Orwell. As such the film also offers an opportunity to explore Carr’s disillusionment with official communism. This likely resonated strongly when the film was originally released in 1995, only 6 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Arguably the film lays it on quite thickly. Carr’s return to the front just in time to see his unit – clumsily and tragically – disbanded by a former comrade is arguably contrived, but this doesn’t detract from its very real emotional power. The film also does not obscure the political content of the revolution in the name of entertainment with one scene consisting of an extended meeting amongst recently liberated villagers about whether or not to collectivise their land. This scene will be curiously familiar to anybody who has spent anytime in lefty and anarchist meetings.
As an event, the film was clearly a major success with the cinema almost sold out. It also offered an opportunity to explore the complex politics of the Spanish Civil War which had been obscured during the recent re-dedication of the memorial to the International Brigades at County Hall. People’s Histreh organised a stall in the foyer with information about the war and the social revolution which took place at the same time. Various people expressed an interest and some they even managed to sell a couple of books.