The Mexican Suitcase tells the story of a missing, long-believed forever lost suitcase from the Spanish Civil War of 1936. Inside the suitcase were over 4000 negatives from photographers David Seymour, Gerda Taro, and Robert Capa, many of which offer a view of the war as previously unseen.
… a vital, if uncomfortable postcard from the past to a future we should all want to avoid.
To understand the significance of these photographs, you first have to understand the photographic world before Robert Capa and how he and others like him changed photojournalism.
Previously photographs would show the build-up to war or the aftermath of the war but never the war itself, but now motivated by a story that must be covered, the Spanish Civil War changed all of that. Freelance, foreign photographers like Capa came to Spain started appearing in the trenches and running across the barricades, taking the same risks as the soldiers around them. Motivated by the sincere belief that photographs could change the world, their work did exactly that and changed how the war was perceived. For now, the world was involved in the war.
The other groundbreaking aspect to David Seymour, Gerda Taro, and Robert Capa’s work were the subjects in the photographs. It wasn’t just soldiers, it was civilians too. Victims and refugees from bombing raids could now make eye contact from those witnessing the atrocities of war from thousands of miles away. And even now, this makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Combining the quest for the suitcase and how people in Spain today address their shared histories goes right against the culturally agreed acceptance to leave the past where it lies. But as those now digging up the mass graves astutely put it, “how can you build a future without memories?”
As a documentary that goes right to the heart of a wound previously deemed too deep to open, The Mexican Suitcase is a vital, if uncomfortable postcard from the past to a future we should all want to avoid. In short, see it. It’s waiting for you now on Amazon Prime