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This film explores the space between memory and history. A Basque exile in his 90s tells stories of his eventful life, some seemingly at odds with the record of fact. Is a reinterpreted memory a lie or is it the fabric of history and identity? Viewers are challenged to reassess their own memories.


Where does memory end and history begin?
In 1939, Antonio de Ertze Garamendi was a young sailor from the Basque Country caught up in the Spanish Civil War. The Basques were persecuted when Franco’s forces triumphed.
The deposed Republican Government had concealed a fortune in Spanish treasure to keep it from Franco. When they were defeated orders were sent that a ship should collect the hidden treasure and take it to Mexico to support the fleeing refugees. But when the treasure reached Mexico almost all of it went missing.
Antonio Ertze was First Engineer on that ship. Now 94-years-old, Antonio’s tales of his flight entwine themselves with the 20th century history of the Basque people and of the Spanish Civil War. But there are contradictions in Antonio’s story and some will say that not all of it is wholly true. How did they escape Franco’s Navy? How did they get the treasure into Mexico? What happened to the fortune? Yet Antonio has meticulous notes and records of the names and dates involved and says: “I have my truth, others have theirs. If we all told the same stories we would be nothing more than canaries.”
Shot on a return visit to the Basque Country, The Old Man and the Whale sets Antonio’s story to images of the textures, colours and landscapes of the home of one of Europe’s oldest people which asks us to explore the difference between memory and history.

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