El Misterio Galíndez (The Galindez File) (2003)





Director:     Gerardo Herrero. 

Starring:     Saffron Burrows (Muriel Colber), Harvey Keitel (Edward Robards), Eduard Fernández (Galíndez), Guillermo Toledo (Ricardo), John Furey (Norman Radcliffe), Reynaldo Miravalles (Don Angelito), Chete Lera (Diplomático), Miriam Learra (Rosa), Carlos Padrón (Leon María Jara), Jacqueline Arenal (Gloria Moral), Mario Limonta (Areces, old), Joel Angelino (Don Angelito, young), Enrique Almirante (Trujillo), Hugo Reyes (Areces, young), Jorge Alí (Rivera Maculeto).

about Jesús de Galíndez Suárez, activist of the PNV party and Basque diplomat who disappeared in 1956 because of his opposition to Trujillo



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

New York, March 12, 1956.  Two men talk about politics and especially the Basque situation in Spain.  Galíndez says:  "Washington never intended to help us to form an army to free the Basque Country, to put pressure on Franco or anything else."  Franco is now in the United Nations. He goes on to say that Almoina has offered him $50,000 dollars not to publish his book on Trujillo.   The other man, Pepe, says that Almoina has been running for election for 20 years.  He adds that Galíndez better be careful because the Dominicans here in New York are all Trujillo's men. 

The doorbell rings and two men deliver a refrigerator.  The huge fellow grabs Galíndez, while the other man puts a chloroform handkerchief over his nose.  Pepe just watches from a corner of the patio outside.  They put Galíndez in the box.  Pepe walks down the fire escape. 

Amurrio Valley, Basque Country, 1988.  Muriel Colber reads the inscription on the gravestone of Galíndez.  Her boy friend tells her it's too cold to stand out here in the rain.  She says that she is going to find Galíndez, finish her thesis and keep her grant.  They go visit with the boy friend's Uncle Julian who knows a lot about Galíndez and the Basque country (in the Pyrenees Mountains).  Muriel says she is writing her thesis on exiles in the United States and the ethics of  resistance.  Galíndez was a Basque exile in the USA.  He was killed on orders from the Dominican President Trujillo.  Galíndez was the delegate to the USA of the exiled Basque Nationalist Party. 

New York, 1988.  A bicycle courier brings a package to Edward Robards.  He signs for the package and then goes over to his desk and opens it.  He sees a folder with a report and says to himself:  "Galíndez.  Galíndez, again."

San Silvestre prison, Trujillo's private jail, Dominican Republic,1956.  Galíndez is being tortured for information.  When did he join the communist party?  He says he never did.  His head is dunked again and again into a barrel of water.  What contacts has he had with the Dominican communists?  No contacts.  He represents the Basque Government at the United Nations.  Galíndez says he is an exile and now is a professor at the University of Columbia.  He also works with the FBI. 

New York, 1988.  Mr. Robards goes to see Muriel's professor.  He says that the Galíndez case was one of the first cases he ever worked on, back in 1956.  Robards tells the professor:  "Put an end to that supposed research."  The professor asks if that's an order?  Robards answers:  "It's for the best."  He goes on to threaten the professor with exposing his affairs with his students if he doesn't put an end to the thesis.

Madrid, 1988.  Muriel interviews a politician who knew Galíndez.  She mentions that Galíndez fought and died for freedom in the Dominican Republic.  The politician advises Muriel not to be an admirer of Galíndez, because admirers usually write bad biographies. 

Muriel goes to her apartment and her roommate tells her that she received a note while she was gone.   A little later she rings the doorbell of her boyfriend.  He lets her in and she asks him where was he?  She tried for an hour to get hold of him.  She says her professor Norman Radcliff is threatening to take her grant away from her.  Muriel is really mad because Radcliff was the one who wanted her to focus on Galíndez.  Her boy friend says that there is virtually no interest in Spain about Galíndez.  He was no saint.  Muriel doesn't care about that.  She says what interests her is that Galíndez was a man who fought and died for an ideal.  The boy friend says that Muriel gets so wound up about this Galíndez affair that sometimes it feels like he is talking to Mrs. Galíndez.  Muriel doesn't like that remark and storms out of the apartment.

The boy friend comes after her and she tells him:  "If I don't do this, who will?  No one cares about him."  Wisely, the boy friend says:  "I do."  He starts kissing her and she joins in. 

New York, 1988.  Robards tells his two assistants that this Muriel is a classic case of a rebellious New England minister's daughter.  He now asks what the two guys found out about her?  She had a romance with a leftist from Chile and that fellow is one of the missing.  One of the assistants wants to know what is there to find out about this Galíndez guy?  The case was closed more than 30 years ago with the now deceased John Frank.  Why bother with this research?  Robards says he is near to retirement and he's not going to start questioning the orders of his superiors now. 

San Silvestre Prison, 1956. A diplomat from Spain comes to see Galíndez, but he only wants information from him about exiled leftists involved in anti-Spanish actions.  He says if Galíndez can help him out with information, he can try at least to get the torture stopped.  Galíndez says he will talk before a judge.  The diplomat says he can't do that.  Realizing that Galíndez is not going to talk, he leaves.

New York and Madrid, 1988.  Robards, sitting right by Professor Radcliff, records a call to Muriel in Madrid from the professor.  He blames the advisory board for not liking Muriel's research.  Radcliff adds that she can only keep her grant if she focuses on someone more contemporary in today's societies.  Muriel asks him:  "Are you out of your mind?"  He says he can guarantee her the other book will be published.  Muriel says that she will think about it. 

Madrid.  Muriel goes to speak with Sanchez Beltran.  He wonders why she would even want to write about Galíndez for the man was "a poor wretch who died for no reason."  She says that Beltran was the secretary of the Spanish Embassy in Santo Domingo in 1956.  He tells her that he had the assignment of telling Madrid about the death of Galíndez.  He looked into the case but only found rumors such as he had run off to Moscow or had been thrown overboard to the Caribbean sharks.  But it was Trujillo who was behind the man's death.  He says:  "Trujillo was a vicious animal who never forgave his enemies."  The pilot that took Galíndez from New York to Ciudad Trujillo was also murdered.  When Beltran tried to help a man named Diaz investigate what happened, Diaz had to recant what he said and Beltran was sent back to Madrid. 

Muriel meets up with her boyfriend and tells him that she has to go to Santo Domingo to follow Galíndez's trail.  She also says that she had a boyfriend who was from Chile. He returned to Chile and never came back.  She assumes he's dead, but she doesn't really know.  Muriel tells her current boyfriend that she should have told him this story earlier.  She says she loves her current boyfriend, but she needs a little time. 

 Latin Quarter, USA, 1988.  Robards enters an elderly Cuban man's home.  When the man comes home, he sees that things are out of place. He takes his pistol out of the drawer and goes to find the intruder.  He is very surprised to see that the intruder is his old associate Robards. They hug each other.  Then they sit down and Robards asks him if he remembers the Galíndez case?  Yes, he does. 

San Silvestre prison, 1956.  Galíndez is put into a car and driven away from the prison.  They take him to some fancy government building.  In walks General Espaillat, Consul in New York.    He gives Galíndez a Yankee paper to read, but Galíndez, with his bad eyes from the torture, says he can't read it.  So the general says the Yankee papers say that the Dominican authorities had no part in the disappearance of Galíndez.  Some says Galíndez is in Mexico, others say the Soviet Union.  But now Galíndez will be tried for his insults to Trujillo and for setting the Americans against the Dominicans. 

Santo Domingo, 1988.  The wife of a man who has offered to help Muriel, picks her up in her car at the airport.  She tells Muriel that he has set up an interview for her with President Balaguer, who was the secretary of state when the Galíndez affair occurred.  She tells Muriel to look at the street sign.  It says Calle Jesus de Galíndez.  Muriel thinks to herself they kill the man, but now they honor him by naming a street after him. 

They put Muriel on as a guest on a television broadcast.

Muriel sits with her host and hostess at a restaurant.  Her host tells Muriel:  "The Trujillo system succeeded itself through Balaguer, and with help from the United States.  Nothing's changed much."  Suddenly, an announcement is made that Muriel Colber has a telephone call.  The call is from the daughter of the pilot Oscar Moral who was killed by the Trujillo thugs. 

Dominican Republic, 1956.  The military judges file in.  Galíndez is asked if he wrote the book The Trujillo Era.  One of the judges really balls out Galíndez, saying the country took him in and gave him a job as a labor consultant in the government.  Then he had the nerve to go to the United States and write a book criticizing the system in the Dominican Republic based on what he had learned in their country.  Trujillo finally stops the judge from going on and on.  Now Trujillo starts talking to Galíndez.  He says he's not bothered by garbage books like the one Galíndez wrote.  Galíndez asks then why has he been brought here?  Trujillo goes ballistic, takes out his pistol and puts it against the face of Galíndez.  He says he's upset about the honor of both himself and his family being criticized.  The president also says that Galíndez won't leave here alive. 

Galíndez asks to speak and is granted permission.  He says he was brought here illegally, was tortured and now will be killed. And all for writing a book on Trujillo.  But he stands up not so much for the book, of which he does not regret writing a single page, but for his belief and support of freedom.  After he finishes Gen. Espaillat pronounces that Galíndez has been found guilty and the sentence is death. 

Latin Quarter, USA, 1988.  Robards meets with the Cuban on a large boat.  The Cuban says he does not like the way he is being treated and he tells Robards that he did not want to be involved in this Galíndez case.  So Robards asks him what he wants?  He wants a salary of $3,000 dollars a month and a room at the Hazlet Nursing Home with his cats.  Robards laughs a bit about his demands and tells the Cuban that he knows the the bureau can force him to do what they ask.  The Cuban tells Robards to stop bluffing.  They know that he is the only man who can stop this Muriel Colber. 

Dominican Republic, 1988.  Muriel comes to speak with Gloria Moral.  Gloria introduces Muriel to Cruz Ayala, an elderly gentleman.  It seems that Mr. Ayala has come to convince Muriel that Gloria's father really did commit suicide.  She asks then why did her father commit suicide?   He had cancer.  Muriel leaves the place very disappointed. 

At night Muriel cries.  She telephones her boyfriend in Madrid.  It's 6 a.m. there.  She tells him that she is fed up with the whole thing and is going back to Madrid.  She says she really misses Ricardo and when she gets back she wants to move in with him.  Ricardo says he's a bit confused by all this.  He adds that he will pick her up at the airport.    

In the morning her hostess Rosa comes to see Muriel in her hotel room.  Muriel tells her about all her problems.  Rosa says that Cruz Ayala was one of Trujillo's closest collaborators. 

Muriel takes a dip in the hotel pool.  A man named Jose Rivera Maculeto comes to speak with her.  She says she is leaving soon.  The man says he was there with the Spaniard Galíndez.   He arrived in an ambulance and with a doctor.  He took Galíndez to the Palace.  He adds:  "They say the Chief himself killed him."  He asks her to come with him.  Muriel is a bit suspicious, but she decides to go with him.  She gets dressed.  She then telephones Leon Maria Jara.  No one is home.  She will call back later. 

The mystery man takes Muriel to see another man in his office.  He tells Muriel that everyone knew about it.  General Espaillat planned the whole thing with his right-hand man, Oscar Moral.  Oscar planned and helped execute the kidnapping of Galíndez.  Moral took Galíndez in the plane along with a Yankee pilot called Murphy.  The disappearance of Galíndez led the gringo press to start talking about the case and congressman Porter also looked into it.  Trujillo started panicking and began killing all the witnesses.  They knocked off the doctor treating Galíndez.  Oscar Moral was to take out the pilot Murphy and then Moral committed suicide.  The man says that when Trujillo died he supported Bosch, but he later discovered that Bosch was just another fanatic. 

The problem is that Muriel is suspicious of the colonel.  She says that coincidentally all the evil doers are now conveniently dead.   She asks the colonel who told him to tell her all this?  He won't say.  She leaves.  She runs down the streets to get out of there. 

Muriel goes in to a restaurant.  Later she sneaks upstairs to see Gloria's mother.  Mother says her husband did not kill himself.  He was no criminal.  Gloria is now told that Muriel went upstairs.  Mother tells Muriel it wasn't her husband that killed Murphy, but the gringos themselves.  It was the secret service, who were also involved in the kidnapping of Galíndez.  To them Galíndez was just another informersand her husband just another black.  Gloria comes up and throws Muriel out of her mother's apartment.  Muriel gests in a cab to be taken to the Melia hotel.  When Muriel opens her purse to pay the taxi driver, she is surprised to find the letters from the father of Gloria to Gloria's mother.   

She asks her host if he has ever heard of Colonel Areces, one of Bosch's men?  No, he doesn't know him.  Muriel tells him to read one of the letters belonging to Gloria's mother.

Cruz Ayala jumps all over Gloria's mother.  He wants to know what are in those letters from her husband?  She says:  "The truth."

1956.  Two men are assassinated by shots to their heads while on a airplane. 

Dominican Republic. 1956.  Trujillo learns that the Yankees are calling for an investigation of what happened on the airplane.

Dominican Republic, 1988.  Cruz Ayala asks why he was never told of the existence of letters from Gloria's father to her mother?  Gloria asks what can they do?  Cruz Ayala says that Gloria's mother is very sick.  They could declare her incompetent or she could die. 

Muriel's host says that this letter she gave him proves that the CIA killed one of their own men, the pilot Murphy. 

Prison, 1956.  Captain Areces gives Galíndez a cigarette and lights it up for him.  Galíndez asks him if he will be killed?  The captain does not answer.  Has anyone been at least asking for him?  The captain says he doesn't know, but he doesn't think so.  Galíndez is taken out of his cell, walked in the rain and a noose is placed around his neck. 

Santo Domingo, 1988.  The Cuban calls Muriel saying that he has all the information that she needs, but she will have to come to New York.  He says Galíndez knew him as Don Angelito.  He says he was at the apartment when Galíndez was kidnapped.  He says she must come to New York because he can't set foot in the Dominican Republic.  He hangs up.  With Don Angelito is Robards.  He tells him that they must get those letters back.   

Muriel gets on a plane for New York with tickets provided by the CIA.  After her taxi pulls away from the hotel, the two men working for Col. Areces pull up to the hotel.  Muriel gets on the plane.  Her seat mate is going to be one of the CIA agents working for Robards.  When he indicates to Muriel that he wants to get to his seat nearest the window, Muriel gets up.  The agent knocks the purse out of her hands and with his back to Muriel he dumps out the contents of her purse on the floor.  He rummages quickly through her large purse, does not find the letters and then puts the contents of the purse back into the purse. 

The guys working for Areces go through Muriel's hotel room looking for the letters.  At the airport, one agent is substituted for the agent that was with Muriel on the plan.  He follows Muriel.  She goes into a small diner to meet Don Angelito.  They sit down together in a booth.  He tells her that she took a big chance in speaking to Col. Areces.    The man is a member of Balaguer's secret police.  She is a bit suspicious of Don Angelito, so he gives her some photos of his from the time he worked on the Galíndez case.  The CIA guys watch the two people come out of the small diner. 

Don Angelito and Muriel go toe the botanical gardens.  He tells her the truth about the kidnapping of Galíndez.  But he also tells her that Galíndez was then rescued from Trujillo by the FBI.  He says Galíndez betrayed everyone who worked with him.  He was an FBI informer.  Muriel tells Angelito that what he is telling her makes no sense.  He says that he kept seeing Galíndez until his death in Mexico two years ago.  Muriel asks him for some proof of what he is telling her.  She tells him that she has proof that the CIA helped in the murders of Oscar Moral, Murphy and Galíndez. 

Angelito asks her to let him take her to the airport for the flight back to Santo Domingo.  As he talks two men dressed as workers for the botanical gardens grab Muriel from behind.  They throw her into the back of a van and jump in with her.  Don Angelito closes the doors, taps on the van and away it goes.  Then he simply walks away from the site of the abduction. 

Don Angelito arrives at his place.  As he takes off his satchel, Robards shoots him twice in the back with a pistol with a silencer.  He then walks out of the place.   

Muriel awakens on a mattress on the floor of a building.  She starts to cry thinking about what has happened.  Robards comes in to see her.  She asks where she is?  In the Dominican Republic.  He tells her that Norman Radcliff has been telling her whatever his organization wanted him to say.  She asks whose behind all this?  No answer.  What do you want?, she asks.  The original copies of Moral's letters.  She says she doesn't have the letters.  So where are they?  I can't give them to you, she says.  Then she says:  "Fuck you and all the other sons of bitches like you.  Fuck you."  Robards leaves.  Col. Areces comes in with one of his tough guys. 

Ricardo in Madrid receives a note from the embassy in Santo Domingo that Muriel Colber has been drowned on a local beach. 

At the funeral for Muriel, Ricardo goes to New York to talk to her professor.  The professor tries to disparage Ricardo's conclusion that someone murdered Muriel.  Then Ricardo shows him some of the letters he received from Muriel showing that the CIA cooperated in the death of Galíndez.  He now asks the professor, who asked him to take away her grant?  Radcliff tells him he just can't help him.  And he advises him not to go to Santo Domingo and get involved with that nation's island politics.  Ricardo says there are already too many people that look the other way.  Ricardo walks away from him. 

Robards gets drunk at a bar.  He starts walking to his car.  He urinates while up against a car.  Robards goes home.  He gets a courier delivery.  He opens the package and looks at the contents.  He says:  "Oh, God" and drops the package and its contents.   

"This film is based on a true story:  the kidnapping and disappearance of Jesus de Galíndez, March 12th, 1956, in New York.  Even today, the circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery."


Good film.  A political thriller.  Who killed the Basque politician Jesus de Galíndez who wrote a damning book of The Trujillo Era in the Dominican Republic?  Was it ordered by Trujillo or by one of his underlings?  Why did they want him dead?  How did he die, if he is dead, and where is he buried, if his really dead?  A doctoral candidate working on a thesis dealing with Jesus de Galíndez finds out that for some reason nobody seems to want her to write about Galíndez.  But she proceeds ahead with her research and even travels to Santo Domingo.  She foolishly takes big risks to get information from witnesses that are lies.  But a truth her and there keeps her going.  She puts her life in danger with the risks she takes.  She becomes a center of focus for men mixed up in the murder of Galíndez and other people that dealt with Galíndez and his kidnapping.  She doesn't realize it, but the Americans are involved in this mystery and they don't want Muriel to continue her research either. 

Good mystery/police film because it shows the great limits the United States goes to protect many dictatorships against people fighting for democracy.  The USA always seems to favor the Latin dictators rather than those pushing for change.  It's a mighty poor performance.  Saffron Brown was very good as Muriel. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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