Cadáver is a moving documentary about an undertaker repatriating the bodies of people who died trying to reach Europe. A short filled with compassion and attentiveness, Benjamin Kodboel’s film greatly affects you.
Martín Zamora has been managing a mortuary in Algeciras, Spain, since ’98. He collects the bodies of people who have drowned trying to reach Spain and then repatriates them to their home countries. Now, he is forcing him to face his own mortality.
In Benjamin Kodboel’s documentary Cadáver, he poses the question of what happens to a person if they die on their illegal journey to a new country. Does the government get involved? If so, which one? Are the finances left to the usually low-income families of those who tried to flee their home country? Here on the coast of Southern Spain, it willingly falls on Martín Zamora. An undertaker who initially thought would he would be making a fortune in repatriating these bodies but came to quickly realise that while there is little money in his efforts, he is doing something so ethically beautiful that you can only admire him.
You understand Martín’s importance for his job and for these people who need to be repatriated to their families. In one scene, as he retrieves a body from a morgue, he and another person take the body out of the freezer; the person assisting calls the deceased “it”, and Martín immediately calls them by their gender. Although dead, they are still people and deserve the respect of being classed as one. The assistant is then a tad haphazard with the body as the door almost hits their head, but Martín tells them to be careful with the head. He wants this person to have the funeral they deserve, for their family to see them in as good a condition as he can make possible.
With people like Martín Zamora in the world, we can find ourselves lucky. Still, as he worries about his disease, he wonders who or even if someone will do this after him. What will happen to all of those people who made their fateful journey? Kodboel poses that question to us and decides not to neatly provide an answer. In theory, you would hope the Governments of those countries where the people die would do so. But nothing is ever that simple, and as Martín mentions early on in Cadáver, there is no money in this endeavour.
Benjamin Kodboel finds some powerful moments throughout Cadáver that pull at your heart. Whether it be Martín talking about the ordeal of speaking to someone about their loved one being dead and arranging the repatriation of the body or seeing the body return home and the family’s distraught reaction to it. You realise how fleeting life is, that these people just wanted to come to a new country to live a better life for themselves, but also their children. So, when he talks about returning the body of a nine-year-old, it truly hurts you.
Cadáver is required difficult viewing. These situations should not be necessary, but thank goodness for people like Martín Zamora, and with hope there will be more like him worldwide.
The Bolton International Film Festival is running physically from October 4th – 8th and Online from the 11th – 22nd October. For more information please click here.
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