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Chronicle of an announced murder in a Galician hamlet: the true story behind the film “As bestas”



Fade to black. Two words appear on the big screen: “To Margo”. After two and a quarter hours of apnea in the Franco-Spanish rural thriller by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, As bestas, this first name brings us back to reality. Not that of the Madrid cinema where this film is still screened, a success both critical – with seventeen nominations for the Goyas, the Spanish Césars – and public – 330,000 spectators in France and nearly 600,000 in Spain. But that of the “crime of Petin”, as the case that inspired it was called. Or the story of the torture suffered by a couple of foreigners, embodied on screen by the French actors Marina Foïs and Denis Ménochet, who came to settle in a remote hamlet in the north-west of Spain, and confronted with extreme intolerance of a family of local herders.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Cinema: “As Bestas”, a couple of neo-rural people tormented in Galicia

In Santoalla do Monte, an isolated hamlet located on the heights of the municipality of Petin, in Galicia, where Martin Verfondern was killed by his neighbor in 2010, his widow, Margo Pool still lives in their house. Surrounded by her sheep, this 69-year-old blue-eyed woman has become the last inhabitant of the locality, where she pursues, alone, the dream they had together of returning to the land. To the national or local press, she explains that her place is here, where her husband rests. And that, if she left, those who did everything to make their lives impossible and drive them out of here would have won…

This couple, not French but Dutch, had come in 1998 to rebuild their lives far from the noise of the city. Arrived from Amsterdam, where Margo Pool was secretary and Martin Verfondern, electrician, the two forties fell in love with Santoalla do Monte. They bought a dilapidated house in the middle of the fifty ruined mansions, abandoned over the last decades by inhabitants who left to seek a better future in the city or in Latin America.

Remedies and threats

Margo and Martin have renovated their house and cultivated the land. And they sympathized with the only family that still lived in the hamlet, that of Manuel Rodriguez, says “O Gafas” (“the glasses”), septuagenarian reigning on the scene, with his wife, Jovita, and their two adult sons, thirty, Julio, the eldest, and Juan Carlos, the youngest, suffering from an intellectual disability. No doubt they thought that these “hippies” would quickly tire of life in the countryside and that they would leave. Under no circumstances would they claim their share of the profits from the exploitation of the 355 hectares of “communal mountains”.

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