‘Las Bestias’ a Dutch drama in Galicia

Film director Rodrigo Sorogoyen was especially intrigued by the missing man’s wife, Margo Pool, who decided to stay despite the dangers lurking. In this psychological thriller, Martin ‘el holandés’ is replaced by Antoine ‘el francés’ magnificently played by Denis Ménochet. Like the Dutch, he and his wife Olga have started an ecological farm in the mountains in Galicia, where life is hard. The villagers hope to get out of poverty by having windmills placed near the village, but Antoine refuses to participate. That angers his neighbors, two brothers and their old mother. The glossy Spain magazine ESPANJE! wrote a review. The trailer can be seen at the bottom of this article.

The atmosphere becomes increasingly grim and Antoine – just like Martin did – films everything to go to the police. But then one day he doesn’t come back from a walk. Despite the fear, Olga (a beautiful understated role by Marina Foïs) decides to continue the farm and just face the neighbors she fears. Meanwhile, she finds out what happened to her husband. A wonderful film for anyone who wants to get to know the other Spain, with beautiful images of the green countryside, in which you hear not only Spanish but also Galician spoken.

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The real story

The mysterious disappearance of Martin Verfondern previously inspired two American filmmakers to make the documentary Santoalla (see trailer at the bottom of this article). This was shown at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2016 and was also shown in the theater in O Barco de Valdeorras, the village where the Dutchman was last seen alive while shopping.

It’s a mind-boggling documentary in which Margo Pool and her neighbors tell what happened in real life. We see in archive footage how happy Martin was at first in the village and how he grew increasingly suspicious. Although the two stories are very similar, there are differences and the ending is also different. So this is not a spoiler. In the real story, the culprits were eventually caught and brought to justice. In late 2014, his neighbors, the two brothers Julio (then 51) and Juan Carlos (then 47) Rodríguez González, confessed that they had murdered Martin in early 2010. In 2018, only the mentally challenged Juan Carlos was finally sentenced to 10 years in prison.

According to the judge, it has been established that he fired a shot at Martin who was behind the wheel on January 19, 2010. The Dutchman would have died instantly. His brother Julio would then have helped him to burn the body 18.5 kilometers away in a difficult forest area. Meanwhile, the brothers still lived together in the village with Margo Pool, Verfondern’s widow, who miraculously didn’t think twice about moving. “Juan Carlos has the mind of a ten-year-old. I don’t think you can blame him for this,’ she told de Volkskrant in 2014. “As for Julio, I can understand why he tried to protect his mentally handicapped brother. I probably would have done that,’ said Pool.

Quarrel over money for logging

According to the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office, the murder was the result of the disturbed relationship between Verfondern and his wife Margo and the Rodríguez family. The two brothers and their parents were the only residents of Santoalla until the arrival of the Dutch to the village in 1997. The first years they had a good relationship, but according to the justice system that changed when Verfondern claimed his share of income from the sale of wood from the surrounding forests. The forest company gave the villagers an annual financial compensation. Until then, it went to the Rodríguez family because they were the only residents. Pool and Verfondern therefore took their neighbors to court. The case eventually ended up in the Spanish Supreme Court. This confirmed the ruling of a lower court at the end of 2009 that the Verfonderns, as villagers, were entitled to their share of the financial compensation for the timber sale.

A bullet for ‘speeding’

The German naturalized Dutchman Martin Verfondern and his Dutch wife Margo Pool moved to Santoalla because they wanted to lead a different life. They started an organic farm there under the name Centro Ammehula where they taught backpackers how to farm organically. Martin was shot and killed on January 19, 2010 after he had done his weekly shopping with his all-terrain vehicle. Margo was in the Netherlands at the time. According to justice, the mentally retarded brother waited for the Dutchman at the entrance of the hamlet and shot him dead with a shotgun from less than a meter away. His burnt-out off-road vehicle was accidentally discovered in June 2014 in a forest in A Veiga in the commune of Ourense during a forest fire check by helicopter. Verfondern’s remains were found three days later about 100 meters from his car. Traces soon led police to the Rodríguez brothers. The prime suspect Juan Carlos, who was arrested at the end of 2014, confessed to having shot his neighbor ‘because he always drove like crazy’.

Las Bestias can be seen in Dutch cinemas from 20 October. The glossy Spain magazine ESPANJE! may raffle 3 x 2 tickets among the readers. If you want to take a chance on that, look HERE on the website of ESPANJE!

SPAIN! Travel and culture magazine is the Dutch-language glossy about Spain and the Spanish-speaking world that appears four times a year in the Netherlands and Belgium. SPAIN! is a high-quality journalism magazine with inspiring travel reports, beautiful interviews, fascinating columns, delicious recipes and hundreds of tips for lovers of Spain. Read more information on the website espanje.nl

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