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Review: HBO Latino‘s ‘Patria’

Patria
'Patria' on HBO Latino (Image credit: HBO Europe)

The situations are familiar to viewers of such movies as Some Mother’s Son set in Northern Ireland: sectarian conflict causes divisions within families and forces longtime friends to choose sides or risk reprisals in order to maintain those relationships. This time, the setting is the mountains and coastlines of northern Spain, in Basque Country. The emotions are just as painful, and this fine drama illuminates a decades-long struggle that’s far less familiar to U.S TV watchers than that of Ireland.

The eight-episode story begins in 2011 on the day that ETA, the terrorist group that has killed hundreds in a struggle for independence dating back to the 1960s, declares a permanent ceasefire. Bittori visits the cemetery and gravesite of her husband, Txato, who was murdered by an unknown assailant, and tells him she plans to return to their home in the village where they lived together to learn the truth about his murder. Breaking her exile will stir up trouble, though, especially with her former close friend, Miren, a devoted follower of the Basque independence cause. Txato was a businessman who was extorted by ETA and shunned before his murder, and Miren’s son, Joxe Mari, is in prison and might be Txato’s killer. The story shifts back and forth in time, centering on these two families, also including Miren’s husband, Joxian, who tries to remain Txato’s friend despite the pressure not to. Particularly affecting is Arantxa, Miren and Joxian’s daughter, who suffers a stroke and becomes partly paralyzed, using a computer screen to express herself, vividly. The casting is first-rate, as are the direction and editing, and the settings enable a visual journey to a lovely locale that won’t be easy to visit in person anytime soon.