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Documentary tells story of Madeira evacuees

Madeira Film 250419 (Photo John Bugeja) evacuees stay during the WWII

Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia paid tribute to the “evacuation generation” who left Gibraltar during the Second World War at the premier of the documentary “Atlantic Exile”.

The hour-long documentary covers the evacuation to Madeira was screened at the Leisure Cinemas on Thursday evening.

It was directed by Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Mesquita and produced by Amanda Alvarez of Ilnfiel Films and Kontratiempo films.

“Atlantic Exile” tells the story of the evacuation through interviews with the evacuees themselves and included photographs, footage and documents of the time.

The entire civilian population of Gibraltar, the women, children, elderly and infirm were evacuated first to Casablanca in May 1940, then re-evacuated back to Gibraltar after France capitulated and then onwards to Jamaica, London, Northern Ireland and Madeira.

Some 2000 of the 16,000 evacuees went to the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira.

Dr Garcia expressed sadness that many of the evacuees, including some who featured in the documentary, are no longer with us and said the film was nonetheless a fitting tribute to their memory.

Dr Garcia explained that the evacuation was a watershed in the political development of Gibraltar and in our evolution as a people.

The men who stayed behind to fight the war and their families who were sent away developed a strong sense of identity which led to demands for greater self-government and greater control over their own affairs once the war was over.

He presented a small token of appreciation to director Mr Mesquita and pointed the “passion and professionalism” with which over 100 hours of footage had been condensed into a one-hour documentary.

Louis Pereira featured in the documentary as a former evacuee and thanked the Government, the director and those present.

Dr Garcia said: “This documentary will not fail to touch the heart of those who see it.”

“An important historical event is conveyed to the audience very well with compassion and humanity, sometimes sprinkled with humour.”

Former evacuees and their relatives were invited to register for the premiere viewing of this film.

Dr Garcia said the event was a “complete success” and said his office is in talks with local schools so that children learning about the evacuation can watch the documentary as well.

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