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Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom) by Ken Loach (1995) tells a story of a British volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.

For anyone who read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, it is more than obvious that the film is entirely based on the book. Except for the different protagonist (who is Orwell himself in the book), it often matches in minutae details; as it feels, quite deliberately (like the exact same type and age of rifle he gets).

Yet, Orwell is not credited in the film at all. As if the book didn't exist. Furthermore, typical articles about the film, like the Wiki linked above or IMDB, either don't mention the association or mention it in passing.

I find this bizzare. The book is famous and the association, as I said, is too obvious. It seems that the film authors wanted to acknowledge it but were prevented from doing so somehow. Apart from deliberate technical matches (which were artistically not necessary), I suspect the director tried to add "hints" like this:

Film screenshot

(Blair Hall was a real place in Liverpool, where this scene is set, but it feels it was prominently inserted here as a reference to Eric Blair, which is the real name of George Orwell).

Anyway, what could be the reasons for this situation? If not for this film specifically then for similar occurrences in general?

An obvious answer would be the copyright holders for the book, who didn't like the film for some reason. (By the way, Orwell is in public domain from this year (2021) in most of the world, but this wasn't the case in 1995). In fact, Sonia Orwell was a kind of guardian who could do it. But she was long dead by 1995.

However, I believe that removing explicit associations would not be sufficient to clear the copyright issues when the film so closely relates to the book. I can only imagine what Tolkien Estate would do to anyone who'd made a LotR film with just names replaced. So the question remains...

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I haven't seen the film, but based on the Wikipedia article and IMDB information linked from the question, I think it's simply a matter of the story being different enough from Homage to Catalonia that, while they share a setting and some plot elements, the film isn't an adaptation of the book.

Examples:

  • In the movie, the main character becomes involved in a love triangle with two of his comrades from the trenches. Orwell, on the other hand, was accompanied to Spain by his wife, who appears as a "character" in a few key places.
  • In the movie, the main character joins first the POUM and then the International Brigades, whereas Orwell joined only the POUM.
  • In the movie, the main character has a clean plot arc of going to the front, being wounded at the front, then being in Barcelona during the "May Days" of 1937. Orwell moved back and forth between Barcelona and the front many times, and didn't suffer his worst wound (the bullet to the neck) until after the May Days.
  • The movie appears to climax with the rounding up of the POUM by the government. Orwell was not in Barcelona when this happened, and only learned of the POUM arrests after the fact.

On the other hand, all the similarities between the two stories can be attributed to the setting, which is based on a larger historical record of which Homage to Catalonia is merely one part. There really was a Spanish Civil War, some contingents really did elect their officers, the Comintern really did have it in for the POUM, they really did use 40-year-old rifles, etc.

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    Well, naturally, the film is narrower in scope than the book (yes, mostly the "May days"). And they did (had to?) change the protagonist and everything immediately around him. The problem is, there are too many striking similarities which they could easily avoid if they wanted to. Yet on the other hand, normally even much looser adaptations are faithfully credited with "based on..." or at least "inspired by..."
    – Zeus
    Jul 14 at 5:04
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    @Zeus it sounds like you might be discounting all the differences as something they "had to" change and clinging to or magnifying similarities -- which, again, are attributable to the setting and the fact that Homage to Catalonia would have been one of several sources for a story set at that time and place. In other words, your own cognitive biases are affecting your powers of discernment. Professional movie-makers did not plagiarize the still-copyrighted work of famous writer, screen that work at the Cannes film festival, and escape notice of both Orwell's estate and the Writers' Guild.
    – Kevin Troy
    Jul 14 at 23:32
  • That's why I'm puzzled. I (almost) can't imagine it being 'illegal', yet, in my view (bias or not) it's not a normal practice. As I said, I've seen numerous films with much looser connection to the original book which still acknowledged it. In this film, whole scenes are clearly lifted from the book. However generic the setting could be, the connection is very obvious to everyone (it is closer than to any other account of the war); this is why I wonder what could be the reason not to include the acknowledgement, given that they conspicuously don't avoid drawing the parallels.
    – Zeus
    Jul 15 at 3:38

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