‘The Year of the Discovery’ Review: Remembering Tumult in Spain

Though it encompasses three hours and 20 minutes of concentrated sociopolitical discussion, “The Year of the Discovery,” an experimental film with documentary trappings, establishes its central idea in side-by-side opening title cards.

They set up a contrast involving Spain in 1992, when the country hosted the Olympics in Barcelona and the Expo ’92 in Seville, projecting the image of a modern, post-Franco nation. But that same year, workers in Cartagena, a city in the Murcia region, protested a threat to industrial jobs. The demonstrations, the text says, led to an uprising against police and culminated in the throwing of bombs that burned the regional parliament.

“The Year of the Discovery,” directed by Luis López Carrasco, recasts 1992 from the standpoint of Cartagena instead of Barcelona or Seville. But what the film is saying, and how, is complicated. It unfolds mainly in split screen, as rotating interviewees discuss labor conditions, European economic integration and the legacy of Francoism. López Carrasco shoots on camcorder-grade video, muddying the distinction between recent and vintage material.

He shows a 1992 TV broadcast in one image, then continues its audio over two screens of what appear to be a cook and her family eating. The construction suggests they are hearing real-time news about the Maastricht Treaty, which formalized the European Union. But subsequent, jarring references to Facebook and an already-extant euro indicate that the movie was shot closer to the present. (López Carrasco filmed in a closed cafe in Cartagena and selected participants through a process he has called “casting.”)

If the convoluted history and corresponding formal conceits are difficult to absorb, that is part of the point.

The Year of the Discovery
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 3 hours 20 minutes. In theaters.

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