The powerful do not like to be ridiculed at all, much less by brilliant cartoonists. It would be enough to think of despots like Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin to imagine their aversion and hatred towards the comedians who criticize them. For this reason, the victorious post-war general was furious with those artists who had mocked Francisco Franco’s short figure and high-pitched voice while denouncing his limitless cruelty.
The feminist dawn of the Second Republic
One of those ingenious critics, forgotten for more than half a century, was the Valencian businessman and journalist Vicente Miguel Carceller (1890-1940), editor of the satirical magazine La Traca, which sold half a million copies in the years of the Republic . The documentary Jailer, the man who died twicedirected by Ricardo Macián, now rescues the tragic history of the character and the magazine.
It seems unbelievable, the director points out in a chat with elDiario.es, but not even the descendants of Carceller or the cartoonist Bluff, Carlos Gómez Carrera, both shot in the Paterna cemetery in 1940, knew in depth the trajectory of their ancestors or the great transcendence that La Traca had in its time. Thanks to a biography of Carceller, published by the historian Antonio Laguna in the 1990s, that theater impresario, journalist, editor and farce author, republican and Valencianist, who knew how to connect with a multitude of readers, began to be discovered. The keys to the success of La Traca were based on cheap prices, popular themes and languages, and furious attacks against the powerful, that is, against the monarchy, the Church, and the Army.
Ricardo Macián has dedicated six years to the preparation and filming of Jailer, the man who died twicescreened at the last Seminci in Valladolid and in theaters in the main cities (in Barcelona on March 30) and which has received the Berlanga award from the Valencian Audiovisual Academy.
The film, part of its footage fictionalized by the playwright Manuel Molins, uses theater as a common thread and is divided into three plots that refer to Carceller’s own biography, the investigations to rescue his legacy and the emotional imprint that his tragedy has left their relatives and the entire society. In fact, those responsible for the documentary found themselves with the added difficulty that there was very little material to visualize Carceller and La Traca and for this reason they chose to represent the characters with actors in some sequences. The documentary also includes numerous testimonies from journalists, historians and cartoonists, as well as interviews with the descendants of Carceller and Bluff.
More an entrepreneur than an intellectual
It is clear, explains Macián, that “Franco did not like cartoonists and that is why he shot them.” From that brutal repression it is understood that reviving La Traca was something dangerous during the dictatorship and that a slab of silence crushed the memory of Carceller or Bluff. Both Tina Miguel, granddaughter of Carceller; like Olivia Gómez, daughter of Bluff, they were marked by the trauma of the tragedy and by the fear of remembering the suffering.
At the end of the Civil War and after the Francoist troops entered Valencia, Carceller chose to stay in the city despite his popularity and his well-known Republican militancy. Maybe he was naive or maybe he decided to stay where he had his family, his friends and his business. In any case, he tried to save himself from jail by claiming that he was a businessman and that he had no blood crimes. But his defense was useless and he paid for his republican ideology with prison, torture and execution on June 28, 1940 in the infamous Paterna cemetery.
The filmmaker Macián defines Carceller as a businessman more than an intellectual and adds: “He was a businessman very attached to the feeling of the street who aspired to make money and, in fact, he came to accumulate a good real estate wealth. He never forgave debts and when a newsstand did not pay him, he criticized him in the pages of the magazine”.
La Traca was published between 1909 and 1939 and its struggle with power lasted during the monarchy, the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the military uprising against the Republic. The magazine, with a lot of drawing and little text, suffered fines, prohibitions and all kinds of harassment by the authorities for decades, but won the support of a large and loyal audience, including many almost illiterate readers, who identified with his radical line and without concessions.
In any case, Macián points out, “it is no coincidence that La Traca arose in a city like Valencia, with a long tradition of satirical magazines and good cartoonists, sometimes linked to the world of fallas and craft industries.” La Traca was, in a way, the antecedent of publications that would later cover a wide range that goes from La Codorniz to El Jueves passing through Hermano Lobo. In contrast to the execution of Carceller and Bluff, other first-rate cartoonists from La Traca, such as Enrique Pertegás, were able to avoid Franco’s repression and continued to work until the 1960s in other magazines.
Journalist and cameraman for years at Radiotelevisió Valenciana, seasoned in covering wars such as Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, and later a screenwriter and director of documentaries, Ricardo Macián (Valencia, 1963) is optimistic about the future of this film genre, which has a every day wider on platforms and on television. Always interested in topics that reconstruct our recent history, he directed in 2007 Ariana’s eyes, a documentary about the workers of the Kabul film library, who managed to save the film heritage of Afghanistan. For all these reasons, Macián can undoubtedly endorse the words of cartoonist Paco Roca, one of those interviewed in the film about Carceller: “He who controls the present controls the past and will control the future.”