Raza

(Race, 1942)
   Originally, Raza was a narrative written in dialogue form by General Francisco Franco to convey, through the experiences of a courageous soldier, his particular vision of recent Spanish history, from the defeat and loss of the Cuban colony in
   1898 until the end of the Civil War. Although it was not directly autobiographical, the central figure of José Churruca (to be played by Alfredo Mayo in the film) could easily be read, in essence, as Franco's idealized alter ego who went on to save both family honor and the Spanish nation from disaster, and the rest of the dramatis personae were thinly veiled versions of several relatives, including his less ideologically pure brother. Dissatisfied by the lack of heroism in current film depictions of the Fascist "crusade," Franco decided to make Raza into a film epic. José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, the General's brother-in-law and a man whose ideological stance was beyond reproach, was chosen to rework the script (finally credited to "Jaime de Andrade") and direct the project, which remains one of the most emblematic examples of the "crusading cinema" of the immediate postwar. No expenses were spared to turn this into one of the most spectacular films of its time. No matter how trite the story, Sáenz de Heredia, with the precious cooperation of cinematographer Alfredo Fraile, used every expressive device available to give the characters and their actions heroic stature.
   The story follows the saga of the Churruca family. The father had fought and lost in the Cuban war, and the sons witness the social and political unrest in the early decades of the 20th century. Although one of the brothers wavers in his political ideals and joins the wrong party, he will finally see the light. Like Franco, José Churruca fights in Africa and is presumed dead before he makes a return to the war and saves the country from the corrupt hands of communists. There was also a love story of sorts, in which Ana Mariscal played the unassailably faithful sweetheart to the hero. The film ends with a big parade in which the regime shows off its triumphant power and fascist-like approach to discipline, a manifesto on the new dawn that had just started.
   The film went through several transformations during the Franco period, aiming to tone down the excessively bombastic ideology of the original. In 1977, Gonzalo Herralde used Sáenz de Heredia's film as the basis for Raza: El espíritu de Franco (Race, Franco's Spirit), in which the original was slightly recut and punctuated with an ironic interview with the general's sister Pilar and contributions from Alfredo Mayo.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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