When the three days of recording finished in May 2022, Jordi Évole (Cornellá de Llobregat, 49 years old) and Màrius Sánchez (Barcelona, 41 years old) asked themselves: what were they going to do with that interview with Josu Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, Josu Ternera, leader for decades of ETA? “We needed to reflect on what was recorded and how to present it,” says Évole. “We didn’t know whether to make it capitular, whether unitary… We were testing formulas, at the same time that we were with the regular season of Lo de Évole. Yes, we quickly understood that it was material that did not expire, with greater historical value than journalistic exclusiveness.” They kneaded the result little by little; They searched, contacted and recorded Francisco Ruiz, victim of the attack with which ETA murdered the mayor of Galdakao (Bizcaia), Víctor Legroburu, in 1976. Ruiz was the municipal police officer who was escorting the councilor that day, and the commando (in which Josu Ternera was) riddled him with 12 shots.
All this material became Don’t Call Me Ternera, a documentary that has sold out all its tickets for its five screenings in San Sebastián (today are the first two for the public, after the first press screening this Friday), and will be seen on Netflix on December 15. There are 101 minutes that have raised tremendous expectations and even greater controversy: a letter from 515 signatories asked that he withdraw from the contest (even without seeing it), and has also been criticized by Sortu, the parent party of EH Bildu, and by the Josu Urrutikoetxea himself, unhappy with the result. By the way, Francisco Ruiz is in San Sebastián, accompanying the documentary, although Évole and Sánchez sit down to talk to EL PAÍS early on Saturday even without having had time to greet him. “There was magic with him, an immediate connection on a recording day in May 2023,” Évole recalls, “and we have continued to see each other. We showed it to him a long time ago, he was one of the first to see the documentary, because we wanted to see his feelings; Depending on them, we would have done one thing or another.”
Ask. How much time did it take to complete it?
Màrius Sánchez. We recorded in 2022, but we started working in 2020. A little in anticipation that 2021 would mark the tenth anniversary of the end of violence. We were clear that there was no rush, that we had to ask ourselves the right questions and then be calm when presenting it.
Jordi Évole. In raw there will be about nine or 10 hours of recordings resulting from three days of filming.
Q. And given the tension, was there never any fear that Josu Ternera would not return one day?
J. É. In fact, we had this fear that it could happen, because the interview was not a friendly interview at all, no matter how much was said without seeing it.
MS There was a very funny moment from the second day onwards, which was waiting in the morning for him to come back… We were hesitant, and he always did it on time, 10 minutes early, in his suit, without saying anything. Although yes, it is true that the interviews were very tense.
J. É. It was one of the most difficult things I have done in my life, because it required a lot of preparation. Luckily, I do a type of journalism that not everyone can do anymore. I have a great team behind me: script, research, production and post-production. Although in the end you are the one who shows your face, the one who has to be very attentive to what the interviewee tells you, how he says it to you, what words he uses. Well, we were quite shaken from other interviews. A current evil is that the interviewer is examined more than the interviewee. And I don’t know if it’s necessary. You have to demand certain minimums from the journalist, having studied the character very well. Then comes the live show, the tikitaka… When I finish the interviews I am exhausted, it is the coconut that exhausts you. Anyway, we did it with complete freedom, Netflix came in later. It was the first time that a state-level television (and then when the international platform arrived) had in front of an ETA leader willing to talk about everything without conditions.
Without being able to judge him too much as a person, because I don’t know him, I do think we expected a more conciliatory speech. “He spoke more internally, to the ETA prisoners or his audience, than to the outside.”
Q. Did you expect this Josu Ternera, absolutely anchored in his beliefs?
J. É. Without being able to judge him too much as a person, because I don’t know him, I do think we expected a more conciliatory speech. He spoke more internally, to the ETA prisoners or his audience, than externally. He is a militant. That narrows his message a lot. After so much time, we expected more. There is some hint, like when he talks about the kidnapping and murder of Miguel Ángel Blanco, and falls into that definition of the lack of empathy on both sides. Or when we talked about Yoyes, and I asked him about his murder in his town and with his son by his hand, I thought there would be one more step there. He says that he said goodbye to his friend at the airport on the way to her exile, that he visited her in Mexico… and ends up saying that the organization, using his terminology, had a problem with the possible reintegration of ETA members in society, and could lead to a flight of militants. And he justifies that they look for the first person they come across, who is also Yoyes, with great symbolic meaning, and kill her. Josu Urrutikoetxea continues as a militant. That moment came back to me…
Q. Did you see the criticism coming?
J. É. We expected some noise, but not this one, nor a letter asking for preventive censorship, nor the reaction we have experienced these days, because it shows that they do not know us at all. I mean, they have no idea who I am. This interview is a journalistic duty. I feel great pride in the work of my team and the result. One day in a restaurant the owner of the establishment asks me to take a photo with Arnaldo Otegi, and if from that photo it follows that I am from ETA… Sorry for saying it in those terms, but it is absurd, it is idiotizing the viewer. The viewer is being treated with very little respect, because he is being told what he has to see and what he does not have to see. But who are you to decide that? What kind of moral guardians are they? It’s okay to show a product and let the viewer draw their conclusions, which will be very valid. We have a very prepared citizenry, much more than we think. We were more concerned about the victims, and that’s why we were meticulous with the images.
Màrius Sánchez and Jordi Évole, on Saturday afternoon in San Sebastián. Javier Hernández
Q. Is the end of the documentary the end of the interviews you conducted?
J. É. That’s where his self-definition as a militant ends, for me he’s a fanatic, he has no regrets. How is he going to say that his life hasn’t been worth it, because if he hesitates, I don’t know, he would shoot himself. I feel that he responds from survival.
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