Manuel Correa
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01 All the mass graves moved by Franco’s Regime between 1959 and 1983 to the ossaries of El Valle de los Caídos, near Madrid. 

02 Aereal photograph of Calatayud’s Cemetery in 1946, -it is believed that Mercedes Abril’s father was interred here-. This cemetery was moved to El Valle de los Caídos by Francoists in 1959. 

03 Aereal Photograph of Calatayud’s Cemetery in 1962, after it was moved by Franco

04 Clarés de Ribota Railway Station (now abandoned), Rafael Abril Avo and his family used to live here

05 Archive Photograph of Calatayud’s Market Hall, where Rafael Abril Avo was detained before his excecution

06 Site where Calatayud’s Market Hall used to be located before its demolition. Throught Spain, the architecture of disappearance is itself vanishing. 

Mercedes Abril
Silvia Navarro-Pablo

Directed by
Manuel Correa

Produced by
Emil Olsen

Original Music
Mohammad Safa

Sound edition & mix
Emil Olsen

Juan Soto

Manuel Correa

~ An Exhumation

Set in contemporary Spain, An Exhumation explores the role architecture has played in upkeeping or erasing the memory of a troubled past.

Nobody is left to remember what happened to Rafael Abril Avo on monday the 7th of September of 1936. This day’s evening, he was kidnapped in his rural home by members of the Falange Spanish fascist party. They threatened to kill him in front of his wife and three year old daughter Mercedes if he resisted. When I met Mercedes -now 86- one of the first things told me was - “All my life I’ve longed for my father. Even though they want me to forget about it and pretend nothing happened.” 

An Exhumation is framed from the intimate perspective of Mercedes Abril’s memories of her lifelong search for her disappeared father, and her resilience against state-imposed silence and oblivion. In her lifelong effort to find traces that could lead to her father’s whereabouts, Mercedes’ inquiry reached an unexpected turn: according to the local gravedigger in his rural village, his remains were secretly moved by Francisco Franco’s army into the Benedictine Basilica of El Valle de los Caídos, a colossal mausoleum where facsict dictator Francisco Franco himself is buried with roughly 15,000 people he killed. Today, Mercedes wants to exhume her father’s remains from this place so he can be identified and reburied with dignity in a place of her choice. As crimes that happened in the past start emerging in media and public discourse, memory becomes the quintessential ground of contention.

Mercedes Abril holding a picture of her father Rafael Abril Avo

An Exhumation is currently being developed into a documentary film with the support of Fritt Ord Foundation and Sornorsk Filmsenter.