Trauma, Memory and Confinement: (Re)presentations of Space in Dictatorial Cinema

The Illustrated Space

​    Throughout the documentary, as the people share their stories, sometimes their voices function as an omnipresent narration of illustrations that were done to depict what they suffered. When asked the purpose the illustrations served in the documentary, Armengou did not answer and instead explained the process they took in choosing the illustrator. As we see it, the illustrations often function as break in the composition of the film that is mostly made up of the interviews. It plays into the conceptualization of the documentary partially as a piece of entertainment. In terms of the actual representation of the traumatic events, it is notable that the style of illustration mimics that of children’s literature, which loyally represents the perspective of those suffering the trauma, as most of the interviewees explain that their traumatic events happened as children. The most powerful representations of the trauma are when the illustrations do not show the actual moment of trauma, but instead imply the trauma, and focus on how the child was feeling. There is no need to recreate the traumatic sentiment the victims suffered, to do so is a violation of their testimony and, like Sontag explains, a morbid fetishization of what was suffered.

Armengou failed to answer the question as to the goals she had with the illustrations but we were curious to find out if the illustrator himself would be willing to answer some of the questions we had. Thankfully, we were able to reach Joan Casaramona and he was gracious enough to answer our questions. We have selected excerpts from his interview, but the full transcript is available at the bottom of the page.

Q: Para los que vieron el documental, varios expresaron que el estilo de dibujo nos hizo pensar mucho en libros de la infancia e ilustraciones para niños...Ese estilo fue intencionado, o es un estilo que usted normalmente emplea en sus obras?​ [For those of us that saw the documentary, various people expressed that the style of the drawings made us think a lot about childhood books and illustrations for children…Was this style intentional, or is this style something you usually use in your work?]
A: Por un lado, me pareció interesante que el espectador se sintiera cerca de la infancia que relatan los protagonistas, y quizá podía ayudar si los dibujos recordaban un poco a los que nos rodean cuando somos pequeños. También tomé como referencia la gráfica impresa a la que estuvieron expuestos los niños del franquismo, como libros escolares y estampas religiosas... [I think a mixture of both things. On the one hand, I thought it interesting that the spectator would feel close to the childhood the protagonists narrate, and possibly using drawings that reminded us of the ones from when we were small could help. I also took as a reference the printed graphics that the children of the Franco regime were exposed to, like school books and religious stamps...]

Q: Las ilustraciones en varias escenas implican el momento traumático pero no lo muestran...fue una decisión suya? Y si fue, por qué? [The illustrations in various scenes imply the traumatic moment but do not show it…was this your decision? And if so, why?] 
A: La prueba que me pidieron hacer antes de empezar a trabajar en el documental fue dibujar cómo levantan a un niño cogiéndolo por las orejas, y no lo pasé nada bien. [The test they asked me to make before starting to work on the documentary was to draw how they would pick up a child by the ears, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.] No me gustó reproducir la violencia literalmente, prefería que esa parte la ilustraran sólo las palabras de las mujeres y hombres que nos cuentan su experiencia. Hablé sobre esta inquietud con los directores y en muchos casos me permitieron salvarme de dibujar algunas cosas que no quería y en las que no creía. No quería reproducir esos momentos traumáticos, mi intención era ser fiel a los niños que los protagonistas del documental fueron en el pasado, e intentar mostrar su dignidad frente a la injusticia, el abuso y la falta de libertad. [I did not like to reproduce the violence literally, I preferred that that part would be illustrated only by the words of the women and men that relate their experience. I talked about this concern with the directors and in many cases they let me save myself from drawing certain things I didn’t want to do and didn’t believe in.
I did not want to reproduce those traumatic moments, my intention was to be loyal to those children that the protagonists of the documentary were in the past, and try to show their dignity in the face of injustice, abuse, and lack of freedom.]

For the full interview and its translation:

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