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El Lobo

El Lobo is a Spanish film made in 2006 which I watched for the third time recently. I first came across it in the world section of my local library as a DVD rental.

It tells the true story of a Basque construction worker Txema (Eduardo Noriega) infiltrated into the ETA organisation as a mole by SEDEC the security services of Franco. Much valuable information is received leading to the dismantling of the upper echelons of ETA, Txema  is ultimately given a new face and identity and although ETA always retained a bullet for him he has disappeared.

Above all, though there is dramatic licence, it is a fast-moving action film which is highly informative of one of the best known terrorist organisations of the second half of the twentieth century.

The film begins in 1973 with the assassination by car bomb of Prime Minister Carrero Blanco, the heir apparent to Franco.

Various Basque sympathisers are rounded up including Txema. He is on his uppers and cannot refuse the financial help proffered by Riacardo head of SEDEC to become a mole. After a Basque wedding he gets to meet the ETA top brass and he and the viewer soon appreciate that ETA is fatally divided into a military and political wing.

The military wing is headed by Nelson (Patrick Bruel) who ruthlessly takes out the politicos and theorists.

This included compromising a Barcelona bank raid by notifying the police at the last moment.

Sexual and emotional interest is provided by the French actress Melanie Doutey as Amaia, a free-spirited young French girl revolutionary drawn to ETA but only given marginal roles because of her gender. I never realised that the Basque country included Navarre in France on the Atlantic coast where much of the initial action is set.

Amaia sings the Basque anthem at the wedding and soon a relationship develops between her and Tzema. Thereafter she moves up the organisation by offering herself to Nelson. All the while Tzema is liaising secretly with Ricardo who is prepared to drop him when the generals become impatient after the Blanco bomb for a speedy and ruthless military resolution. Txema shows his survival instincts by working both sides of the street.

The third time round seen some of the plot lines seemed implausible and under explained. Was Nelson a double agent or a ruthless operator uncompromising in his para-military vision of ETA?

This is the problem of “based on a true story” namely, what is the truth and what is dramatic licence for the making of a successful film? This manages to do both though the keen viewer might be disappointed by the plot lines.

ETA is now disbanded. Yet the death of Blanco resulted in no like minded successor to Franco and King Juan Carlos restored the monarchy.

One of his early acts in democratising Spain was to pardon ETA prisoners. The effects of the civil war in Spain lived long after its conclusion. Franco suppressed many regional characteristics in terms of  language, education and culture.

This is one of the drivers behind Catalyunian Independence who ironically came closer to achieving their independence politically as result of the assassination of Blanco by the military wing of ETA.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts