Between 1939 and 1975, under the regime of General Franco, a dreadful policy was instilled by the Spanish Ministry of Justice wherein, in order to quell the rise of Republicanism and racial “inferiority” at the earliest possible age, the children of those believed by Franco to be of lesser races or ideologies were taken from their parents at birth, thereafter being sold to wealthy families in order to be assimilated into acceptable society. An estimated 300,000 children were abducted during Franco’s reign, with many of them never discovering their real parents.
In his directorial debut, Stefan Fairlamb tells the tale of one such child, Javier (Ashley Tabatabai), who, after a series of false leads, has given up hope of discovering the truth behind his parentage.
When an American by the name of Henry (Mitchell Mullen) turns up claiming to be his father, Javier is unimpressed. After visiting a nun in Zaragoza, Henry has uncovered Javier’s birth certificate, and, in his dying quest, is determined to reconnect with his lost son.
In this tense and emotional quarter of an hour, Fairlamb has managed to tell a dark and hidden tale of history with emotional aplomb. This is a story that few will be familiar with, and yet by the end of the film, we really feel the plight of our protagonists. Tabatabai’s portrayal of Javier is at once standoffish and yet utterly relatable, capturing the emotional stoicism of, to paraphrase, “forgetting a past that cannot be changed and moving on into the future” beautifully. Mullen, meanwhile, brings to life a broken man who, in his dying days, is resolved to right the wrong that has been done to his family. Mullen’s performance is quite simply heart-breaking, with his eventual fate leaving the audience frustratingly without closure; a testament to Mullen’s depth and gravitas.
Smartly shot, there is something almost confessional to the church scenes, with a tragic irony that despite the Spanish church almost condoning these actions by hiding the children in convents throughout the country, our protagonists still manage to find solace in religion. Howard Carter’s intelligent score does well to compliment this air, with Adam Lyon’s expert photography capturing the internal claustrophobia and isolation well.
Falsified is a beautifully crafted and touching take on one of our darker histories. Thought-provoking and heart-wrenching, this is an intimate snapshot of the destruction of one family that represents the lives of hundreds of thousands across decades of deceit. An excellent debut from a young director who is certainly one to watch in the future.
Dir: Stefan Fairlamb
Scr: Ashley Tabatabai
Cast: Mitchell Mullen, Ashley Tabatabai, Julia Leyland, Mike Archer, Iain Doorandish
Prd: Stefan Fairlamb, Adam Lyons
DOP: Adam Lyons
Music: Howard Carter