Fictional spies lie, cheat, betray, risk their lives in sometimes spectacular settings, fight, not always, for an ideal. If you want a series that responds to all this without forgetting the human essence of espionage, immerse yourself in the five seasons of Infiltrators office (Movistar +). The more sober reality, however, maintains the same ingredients that have made the genre one of the most demanded by the public: betrayal, loyalty, secrets, truths and lies. Documentary productions of a very diverse nature have proliferated on television platforms in recent months. We selected and analyzed seven – some recent, others already small classics – suitable for beginners and for those who want to enter this world. But be careful, because as the British historian Ben Macintyre says, “the secret is a very powerful drug.”
The spy trade (2020). From deadly poisons to how to set a honey trap or who are the Q lords of reality and what gadgets they invent, this Netflix series is the closest a documentary series can get to thriller. Divided into eight chapters of just over 30 minutes, The spy trade it becomes a veritable encyclopedia of what agents do on the ground. The narrative has some reconstructions (here unavoidable) but above all it is based on its graphic power, its rhythm and the presence of experts on the level of David L. Charney or Keith Melton, who gut the keys to the work of the secret services and make true that reality far surpasses fiction. And do not forget that this would not be done without the permission of the agencies. Everything that we do not see here is left to the mercy of the imagination.
The history of the Mossad (2020). “You cannot handle a complete analysis of the history of Israel, of the history of the world, without understanding the secret history of its intelligence services.” These words of the writer Ronen Bergman, applicable to other countries and other secret services, open each of the three chapters of this miniseries that can be seen on Movistar + and that dissects the history of one of the most effective, controversial and transcendent services in the history of espionage. The true merit of the documentary is the precise choice of each testimony, the handling of sources. Renowned experts mix with much of the Mossad staff in the last 50 years, undercover agents and even those responsible for executing some of the operations that are talked about. The documentary reviews with pulse some of the most notable successes of the Mossad (others, will remain forever unrecognized, hidden) and also its failures.
Spies in the sand. Objective Spain (2017). This documentary film by Pablo Azorín Williams and Marta Hierro tells the fascinating story of a group of Spanish Republicans who infiltrated Spain in 1943 to work under the orders of the United States Army in Operation Banana. Manuel Lozar, Francisco Bueno or Ricardo Sicre are the names of some of the heroes rescued by this investigation that has the testimonies of the families and some survivors (fascinating Betty Lussier, OSS agent, forerunner of the CIA). With a solid rhythm and a good accompaniment of animation (it is better than the generally failed reconstructions), the documentary, which can be seen on the Quindrop production company page And on YouTube, it is a good example of the daily motivations of spies, a compendium of their defeats and a portrait of an operation that, if it had come to anything, would have changed the course of Spanish history.
‘Bureau of Infiltrators’: the spy series not to be missed
Franco’s spies (2010). Public television has rescued this production by Xavier Montanyà on its RTVE Play service, which can be seen until August 30. With a format that is supported by historical research and the opinions of some protagonists, experts and biographers, it follows the story of Josep Bertran y Musitu, Jorge Utrillo, José Quiñones de León and José Campos, four spies of the national side who concocted a network in France to undermine Republican efforts in the civil war. Through the various telegrams that they sent, the everyday life and simplicity of a language that later led to denunciations, arrests, bombings and deaths can be seen. Josep Plà, attached to that network, was in charge of guarding the port of Marseille. His biographer assures that the effects of the reports he passed weighed on him forever.
An Ordinary Country (2020). Constructed from undestroyed footage just before the fall of the communist regime by the fearsome Polish Security Service, the harrowing 53 minutes of this film show the more sinister side of an already dark world: when espionage and collection of information turns against citizens. The film, directed by Tomasz Wolski, is part of the programming of Atlàntida Mallorca Film Fest, the Filmin film festival and can be seen on the platform until August 26. Listening, monitoring, interrogation follow one another in a production that, when showing the construction of a big brother with the material collected by the torturers themselves, becomes a strange and unsettling product.
Grace. The spy. (2009). It ‘s movies Edmon Roch it is, possibly, the best of all that have been made about the great Juan Pujol, the man who deceived Hitler, the Spanish spy who made possible the success of the Normandy landing, only to disappear later and fake his death. As fascinating as his story during WWII, how he confuses Germans with false information about England produced essentially from London, is the investigation of journalist and writer Nigel West and how he gets back to one of the greatest spies of all time. . The documentary won the Goya in 2009 and can be seen on Filmin.
Ashraf Marwan: Death of a Superspy (2020). That of the Egyptian Ashraf Marwan is a story that brings together everything that generates fascination around espionage. Nasser’s son-in-law, Sadat’s main adviser, was also known as El Ángel, one of the best spies the Mossad has had in its history. Or maybe not. He died in 2007 under strange circumstances when he fell from the balcony of his luxurious home in London. There is a series of non-fiction, The Spy Who Fell to Earth, which could be seen on Netflix, but is now not available in Spain. But nevertheless, the Al Jazzera documentary fills the gap and also has the virtue of including in less than 50 minutes all the essential voices of the case and of not falling into conspiracy theories and speculations, so tempting in situations like this. Accident? Suicide? Murder? Was it the arms dealers you were dealing with? Egypt? The Mossad aided by MI6? His death robs us of the answer. It is the magic of espionage: many times the folds of a story fascinate us while distancing us from the truth.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.