Plot 35 | Carre 35 (2017) ****
Dir.: Eric Caravaca; Documentary with Angela Caravaca, Gilberto Caravaca | France 2017, 65′.
This small gem of a documentary proves the point that a huge impact can be made without the need for a multi-million budgets or indulgent running times: Actor Eric Caravaca, who is better known for his performance in the recent Lover For a Day), uncovers a tragic family secret which sees him diligently tracing the short life story of his sister Christine, who had been mysteriously written out of the family history since childhood.
Christine was born in 1960, the first child of Angela and Gilberto Caravaca, who had emigrated from Spain to Morocco, where they would marry in Casablanca. The 8mm wedding footage shows them happy with no inkling of the tragedy to come. When asking his parents about his sister’s life span and illness, which led to her premature death, Eric gets contradictory answers: his mother claims that Christine lived to be three years, a healthy child who then died of ”Blue Baby” Syndrome. Father Gilberto (who dies during filming) states that Christine died aged four, after potentially suffering from Down’s Syndrome. with neither his wife nor himself present. All photographs and home movies of Christine have been destroyed by mother Angela who candidly opines: “What should I do, cry over it?”.
Eric’s investigation eventually leads him to ‘Plot 35’, in a cemetery in Casablanca. But when he gets there, Plot 35 no longer exists, he does however find Christine’s grave, minus a photo, which has been removed. His research further reveals that both his parents were right: Christine died age three with relatives in Casablanca, and she was suffering from a congenital illness. But the mystery then deepens: why is the grave so well tended when the family no longer lives in Casablanca? Eric soon finds the answer, bringing his search to a satisfactory end. This narrative of denial and neglect is so sad and moving because it reflects on Eric’s parents desperate desire not not to be marginalised in their new home of Morocco. During their peripatetic life in France, after moving back from Morocco, Angela would even changed her name again twice, keen to bury the past and her own trauma for good. A child with special needs was simply too much to cope with – therefore Christina was placed with relatives, far away from their new start in life.
The director uses shocking footage from the French Repression during the Moroccan War of Independence to put his family’s story into perspective. But most traumatising of all are excerpts from Nazi Euthanasia propaganda films. Plot 35 cannot be praised enough: this is a labour of love, of “un-forgetting” the past, and it deserves an audience. AS
NOW SHOWING AT THE ICA LONDON | 12 MARCH 2018