Land and Freedom is a 1995 film (alternative title: Tierra y Libertad) directed by Ken Loach and written by Jim Allen. The movie narrates the story of David Carr, an unemployed worker and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, who decides to fight for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. The movie won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film's narrative unfolds in a long flashback. David Carr has died at an old age and his granddaughter discovers old letters, newspapers and other documents in his room: what we see in the film is what he had lived.
Persuaded of the necessity of helping the Spanish Republicans in their fight against the fascist Nationalist insurgence, Carr, a young unemployed worker and member of the Communist Party, leaves Liverpool and travels to Spain to join the International Brigades. He crosses the Catalan border and casually ends up enlisted in a POUM militia commanded by Lawrence, in the Aragon front. In this company, as in all POUM militias, men and women — such as the young and enthusiastic Maite — fight together. In the following weeks and months he becomes friends with other foreign volunteers, like the French Bernard, and he falls in love with Blanca, a member of POUM, who is also the ideologue of his group.
After being wounded and recovering in a hospital in Barcelona, he finally joins — in accordance with his original plan and against the opinion of Blanca — the government-backed International Brigades, and he witnesses first-hand the Stalinist propaganda and repression against POUM members and anarchists; he then returns to his old company, only to see them rounded up by a government unit requiring their surrender: in a brief clash Blanca is killed. After her funeral he returns to Great Britain with a red neckerchief full of Spanish earth.
Finally the film comes back to the present, and we see Carr's funeral, in which his granddaughter throws the Spanish earth into his grave after speaking lines from "The Day Is Coming" , a poem by William Morris. Afterwards she and the other family members perform a raised fist salute, honoring his beliefs and suggesting that his family might also hold them.
As in the above scene, various languages: Spanish , English and Catalan are spoken throughout the film, and subtitles are used selectively. Carr arrives in Spain without knowing any Spanish, but gradually picks it up — and luckily for him English is the lingua franca in his militia.
The social revolution was opposed by both the Soviet-supported communists and the democratic republicans and as the war progressed, the government and the communists were able to leverage their access to Soviet arms to restore government control over the war effort, both through diplomacy and force. A historical event, the bloody fight between Republicans and Anarchists for controlling the Telefónica building in Barcelona, has been chosen by Loach as an emblem of this internal conflict (See Barcelona May Days). Carr's progressive disenchantment starts from this meaningless fight, which he fails to understand because both groups were supposed to be on the same side. At one point he is guarding the Communist Party headquarters in Barcelona and engages in banter across the barricades with the anarchists opposite. He asks a Mancunian among them "Why aren't you over here with us?" In reply his compatriot asks him the same question and Carr answers "I don't know".
Another important moment inspired by actual events is the execution of a village priest for acting in favour of the Fascist side: he has broken the seal of confessions, telling the fascists where the anarchists were hiding and causing their deaths.
Most critics and viewers noted the similarity between the story narrated in this film and George Orwell's book Homage to Catalonia, in which the author wrote one of the more famous accounts of the war, that of his own experience as a volunteer in the ILP Contingent, part of the POUM militia, before the POUM's suppression by the increasingly powerful Communist Party.