The two sisters who form the centerpiece of “Dirty Wolves” are based on real siblings, the Touzas, who in the early 1940s helped hundreds of Jews escape persecution via a clandestine route through northern Spain into Portugal and on to the United States. A monument in their honor stands in Jerusalem today.
This version of their story adds a touch of witchcraft, a mine, ancient yew trees and wolves. If that sounds far-fetched, it isn’t.
The film’s title, though never fully explained, refers to a forest inhabited by inscrutable hounds that allegedly influence the fate of nearby residents, many of them miners. Some of these miners are political prisoners from the Spanish Civil War, condemned to hard labor instead of being executed by firing squad, a common occurrence in that conflict.
During World War II, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco allowed the Nazis to extract the mineral wolframite, which contains tungsten, from mines in the country’s northwestern region of Galicia for use in German armaments.
Not only are the sisters surreptitiously funneling Jews across the river into safer lands in the dead of night, but they also are part of a plot to steal wolframite supplies from under the Germans’ noses to stifle the development of munitions. Nor are the two women above selling the stuff on the black market instead.
The film is a tight thriller that shows what people under duress will endure to achieve their goals. Manuela and Candela, portrayed by Marian Alvarez and Manuela Velles, respectively, face danger with stoic determination and precious little guarantee of success.
In “Dirty Wolves,” espionage, subterfuge, amorous entanglements, politics, abject cruelty and elements of fantasy during wartime make a weighty mix.