The Spy Within, a documentary essay on friendship and betrayal in the Years of Lead in Spain and terrorism in the Basque Country, takes centre stage in the latest edition of Intervals, a series organised by the Museo Reina Sofía which screens and presents recent films. The film recounts the relationship between Juan Gutiérrez, a mediator between the Spanish State and ETA, and his closest collaborator, Roberto Flórez, a friend and companion who turns out to be a spy for Spain’s Secret Services. Both screenings (23 and 24 February) will be accompanied by a presentation and followed by a discussion with Juan Gutiérrez, the writer Edurne Portela (Saturday 23) and both film-makers.
The film constitutes a multi-layered history of terrorism and the peace process in Euskadi: an intimist and autobiographical account of the effects of conflict on a profoundly political and socially committed middle-class family; a ‘thriller’ on the betrayal and loyalty between two men of differing ideologies who edge closer to the same desire for peace; a social history of violence in the 1980s and 1990s through the figure of the mediator, an invisible subject in chronicles and news reports, forced, through his role in the conflict, to forego Manichean visions.
Ana Schulz, the daughter of Juan Gutiérrez, and her partner, film-maker Cristóbal Fernández, explore and reconstruct, via conversations, interviews and research, the figure of Roberto Flórez – his presence in the family and his influence on how the conversations between the State and terrorists evolved, in addition to his sudden disappearance after his real mission was uncovered, and the forced acceptance of his absence and return a decade later by the mediator and his family circle.
The Spy Within is a wholly unique film on terrorism and violence in the Basque Country, distancing itself from fiction and documentary to combine both languages in a multi-level reflection (on a friendship, family, social, and political level) on the path followed by a conflict. The realisation that mediation is a process based on trust, on a very different concept of the tradition of neutrality and equidistance, pervades the film’s language and narration, and, ultimately, the film is assembled as a process, where tradition, friends and ideology are presented as a road leading towards an unpredictable end.
Cristóbal Fernández is a film editor and director and a musician. He has edited over fifteen films, including Mimosas, by Oliver Laxe (2016), and Héléna Klotz’s L´age atomique (2012), and has directed the documentaries El oficio de mi hermano (2002), About Victor Kossakovsky (2004) and Diario de un reflejo (2008).
Juan Gutiérrez is a philosopher. He studied in Hamburg, where he took part in the German student movements, and, upon his return to Spain, was part of citizen protests during the Transition. Starting in 1987 and until 2001, he founded and directed the Gernika Gogoratuz Peace Research Centre (Remembering Gernika) and was an advisor, between 2004 and 2011, for the 11M Association for Those Affected by Terrorism. From 1990 to 2000 he acted as a high-ranking informal mediator in the Basque conflict – the subject of The Spy Within. He is currently chairman of the international association Hebras de Paz Viva.
Edurne Portela is a writer. Her essays include El eco de los disparos: Cultura y memoria de la violencia (2016) and her novels Mejor la ausencia (2017), awarded the 2018 Fiction Book of the Year Award from the Madrid Bookshop Guild, and Formas de estar lejos (2019), both published by Galaxia Gutenberg. In 2017, with José Ovejero, she made the documentary Vida y ficción. She also writes a Sunday column for El País.
Ana Schulz is a photographer. Of Basque and German origin, she studied photography, humanities and journalism in Madrid and has worked for BBC World, Radio 3 and Radio Círculo, for whom she created and co-directed Cámara lúcida, a long-standing programme and interview blog on photography. As a cultural manager, she has worked in Galería Marlborough in Madrid and the Círculo del Arte in Barcelona, as well as curating photography shows in the project Openhouse. The Spy Within is her debut feature.
Ana Schulz and Cristóbal Fernández, The Spy Within
Spain, 2018, colour, original version, B-R, 89’
Session 1. Saturday, 23 February
Featuring a presentation by Juan Gutiérrez, Edurne Portela, and Ana Schulz and Cristóbal Fernández, who will all hold a discussion on the film after its screening.
Session 2. Sunday, 24 February
Featuring a presentation by Juan Gutiérrez, Ana Schulz and Cristóbal Fernández, who will all hold a discussion on the film after its screening.