The Moroccan Labyrinth

Directed by Julio Sanchez Veiga

90 minutes / Color
English subtitles
Release: 2009
Copyright: 2007

In 1898, after losing Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the U.S., Spain focused its colonial aims on northern Morocco, establishing a Spanish Protectorate in 1912. From 1920 to 1926, Spanish military attempts to conquer the territory were resisted by the guerrilla forces of Rif leader Abd el-Krim. Thousands of Spanish soldiers died-including 15,000 during a two-week period in 1921 known as the Defeat of Annual-and the Spanish Army responded with aerial bombings, chemical weapons and widespread atrocities.

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THE MOROCCAN LABYRINTH reveals how this colonial conflict served as the prologue to the Spanish Civil War, with losses in the African war undermining the monarchy and politically emboldening the "African militarists," including generals such as Francisco Franco, who in 1936 launched a revolt against the Spanish Republic. Ironically, in order to escape famine and poverty, thousands of Moroccans enlisted in the Spanish Falangist movement and found themselves fighting for their former enemies in Spain against Republican forces.

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This documentary features rare archival footage, propaganda films of the era, contemporary interviews with elderly Moroccan combatants, their children and leading international historians, who discuss the Rif War, how the conflict influenced political developments in Spain, how Moroccan mercenaries were used as shock troops during the Spanish Civil War and then, despite financial promises, were immediately expelled from Spain after the Nationalist victory.

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THE MOROCCAN LABYRINTH plumbs the political complexities of this little-known Spanish colonial war as crucial historical background to the Civil War, showing how thousands of Moroccans, the traditional enemies of Spain, became allies with Franco's nationalist forces and were exploited, if not maimed or killed, in a conflict that was never their own.

"Through interviews with Spanish historians, soldiers, and Moroccan men who fought in or witnessed these battles, archival footage (including some shocking historical photographs), the filmmakers have pieced together an engrossing history of this period in European-Moroccan history."-Lalla Lydia

"Fascinating!"-Mark Harris, The Georgia Straight

"With its astute selection of interviews and contemporary film clips, Julio Sanchez Vega's film brings to the screen a fascinating but oft-overlooked slice of modern colonial and military history."-Geoffrey Jensen, The Journal of Military History

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Select Accolades

  • 2009 Vancouver Film Festival
  • 2008 Marbella Film Festival


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