Politics and film. Can a film really effect an election? A question worth asking about Fahrenheit 911 – but a question that perhaps Julio Medem’s film The Basque Ball. A documentary of mainly talking heads about the Basque people, culture and most pertinently its political status. The film – subtitled The Skin Against The Stone – is long, detailed and appears to not have any direct political agenda regarding Basque self determination. It is clearly against violence, from ETA or the Spanish authorities. In teasing out the often contradictory ideals of everyone living together and what the Basque culture is (often boiled down to the unflattering cause of persecution) is not unlike many a hand wringing BBC doco from the late eighties re: Ireland.

The large number of contributors often repeat each other and soon get unmanageable, sociologists against widows, musicians vs philosphers. So much so that it is hard to notice that two groups are not represented. ETA, and their political wing Batasuna, and the banning of both groups by the government is certainly part of the reason for their absence. However there is also no contribution from the Spanish Popular Party, the government which banned Batasuna and has, according to the film, been much more draconian since in power. And here is how the film may have swung an election.

After the Madrid bombings, in the week before the Spanish elections, the Popular Party blamed ETA: a knee jerk reaction which nevertheless was in complete tune with their previous actions. ETA was the Popular Party’s boogeyman, allowing it to impose laws on stop and search and improve its own profile at the expense of the Basque region. This is one of the few theses of The Basque Ball, the demonization of ETA was primarily to improve the ratings of the PP. The question is having been demonstrated this on film (and possibly more in the discussions about the film which the PP wanted to ban) did this push the electorate over the edge. The Popular Party were supposed to win the election safely, but lost. And the loss seems to be put at the door of the wrongful attributing of the blame to ETA. Did the Basque Ball help?