‘The Mexican Suitcase’


War photographer Robert Capa is known for being the first to engage in frontline photography; prior to Capa, photos would be taken before or after a battle, but rarely during, for obvious reasons. Yet Capa, with colleagues Gerda Taro and David “Chim” Seymour, took great personal risks to cover the Spanish Civil War from where the bullets were flying; “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” was his motto, but Taro — Capa’s lover — would die covering the conflict.

“The Mexican Suitcase” is a documentary examining the trio’s work in Spain during that period, based on a trove of negatives that had been lost for decades — during the mad exodus from Catalonia after the fascist victory in 1939 — before finally coming to light in Mexico in the late 1990s; they were only returned to the photographers’ families in 2007, and they belatedly add much to this key moment in photographic history, as well as the collective memory of Spain’s tragedy.

The Mexican Suitcase

Trisha Ziff’s film is rather dry, heavy on the academics and critics, but does a good job of contextualizing these remarkable photos, as well as the motives of the photographers, who were committed anti-fascists. The film is at its best when talking to Spanish exiles from the period, and the children and grandchildren of those who died in the conflict.