Starring: Jesús Eguiguren, Arnaldo Otegi, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba
Director: Justin Webster
Running Time: 107 mins
The End Of ETA (El fin de ETA) is a Spanish documentary about the years leading up to the dissolution of Basque terrorist group ETA, and the difficulties in balancing national priorities with the reality of negotiating with terrorists.
In a world where the threat of terrorism seems all the more radical and undeterrable, The End Of ETA offers the opportunity to take a look at one of the occasions in recent years where words and negotiations have won out over violence. In that, it tells a fascinating history, but it unfortunately goes about doing so in a rather dry way, and makes for a rather tiring documentary to watch.
First off, though, there’s no denying the value of the history on show here, and the interviews that the film features with major players in the negotiations between the Spanish government and ETA offer invaluable insight, as well as a surprising degree of balance in perspective throughout.
Of course, with such a recent subject matter – the whole story covers the period from the early 2000s up to the present day – it’s always hard to give an entirely neutral, objective perspective on the events of history, but the one thing that this film does really well is to give due attention and gain balanced input from figures related to both ETA and the Spanish government, which definitely plays a role in the film’s intriguing portrayal of the development of negotiations and what was at stake over the course of the decade.
Now, this is where things unfortunately fall apart for The End Of ETA, because while it does brilliantly to provide detailed and accurate historial information, its presentation of some of the key themes that developed through the decade and the negotiations leaves a lot to be desired, instead taking both a frustratingly literal and equally unstructured approach to that.
The main focus of the film is on how negotiating tactics differed between the ETA representatives and the Spanish government, but its most intriguing and arguably most significant theme is the public reception to the government engaging with ETA, go against the classic mantra of never negotiating with terrorists.
When the film picks up on that theme, it not only brings the scale and signficance of the negotiations to light, but it also links in well to global perceptions of terrorism, and the focus on the determination to get things solved through dialogue and negotiation rather than military response is something that hits home really well from time to time.
However, the majority of the film takes a far more simplistic, linear approach to telling the history, and while there are those flashpoints of real intrigue and significance as the documentary takes a look at a topic with a wider importance, they’re stuck into their chronological positions, rather than coming about in a more organic and consequently hard-hitting fashion.
In comparison to another recent Spanish political documentary, Two Catalonias, which is far less reliant on chronological order and instead groups its focuses in thematic order, The End Of ETA just doesn’t have that sense of structural coherence that makes a really great documentary, and as such makes for both a frustrating and even dragging watch, as you’re left to sit through a rather repetitive and often underwhelming series of events that force their way through the historical chronology.
Overall, then, I was definitely interested by The End Of ETA, principally because of the fascinating history it tells and the excellent work it does with its interviewees and degree of balance, but its poor structure and frustratingly misplaced thematic focus make it a disappointingly dry watch in the end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.