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The Argentine dictatorship in ten films – Sylvia Colombo

Argentina remembers March 24 as the hardest military coup of the 20th century – yes, there were several coups. In the scheme, which ran from 1976 to 1983, it is estimated that over 20,000 people went missing, while 500 babies were stolen. There is a whole literature and cinematography devoted to this period in the country.

Here are ten movie tips from that era that should never come back. And cinema helps us understand the reasons.

Hector Alterio and Norma Aleandro on the stage of “A História Oficial” (Commercial)

“The official story”

(Luis Puenzo, 1985)

Oscar for best foreign film, tells the story of history teacher Alicia Manet de Ibáñez, lived by Norma Aleandro (a kind of Fernanda Montenegro from Argentina). Despite being taught about the country’s past, Alicia ignores the present and it is only after being questioned by students that she begins to think about what is going on and suspect that her adopted daughter may have been stolen from guerrillas killed by repression. The film has the great merit of reflecting on the period in the heat of events, with the new democracy still in its infancy and the uncertainty about a possible return of the military to the environment.

“Tangos, the exile of Gardel”

(Fernando Solanas, 1985)

Also shot shortly after the democratic recovery, the film tells the story of a group of Argentines in exile in Paris (as happened with the director himself), who try to put on a show dedicated to singer Carlos Gardel. Solanas has made other good films on Argentine politics, such as “La Hora de los Hornos”. Solanas was also a senator and died of Covid-19 this year, in the same Paris where he filmed his most famous work.

“Clandestine childhood”

(Benjamín Avila, 2012)

In this co-production with Brazil, the story is told from the trajectory of a boy whose parents are Montoneros who return to the country in 1979, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize power from the military. Juan (Teo Gutiérrez Romero) has to change his name, school and hide his true story, while his parents train and organize the action which, tragically, will ruin the family. The story is based on real events linked to the life of the director himself, Benjamín Ávila. In Argentina at that time, several children grew up in hiding and hardly remember their parents’ struggle.

“Kóblic”

(Sebastián Borensztein, 2016)

Regretting having to steal “death flights”, in which opponents of the regime have been thrown from heights into the sea, Captain Kóblic (Ricardo Darín) seeks hiding in a village in the province of Buenos Aires, with a new identity. However, his attempt to go unnoticed is unmasked by a former local policeman (Óscar Martínez). Tormented by his past, Kóblic tries to invent a new life and falls in love. However, the military regime threatens him psychologically and concretely.

“Buenos Aires Viceversa”

(Alejandro Agresti, 1996)

A sort of “shortcut” to Buenos Aires, it mixes different narrative lines to tell the story of children of people who have disappeared after being adults. The protagonist, an orphan who knows nothing about her parents, is hired by an elderly couple to film Buenos Aires for them. The two refuse to leave the house, waiting for their daughter who went to college and never returned. On the path of the young girl, several characters will pass with intimate but hidden links with the dictatorship.

“Garage Olimpo”

(Marco Bechis, 1999)

An 18-year-old girl, Maria Fabiani, is taken by the Argentine army and tortured in the underground prison known as Garage Olimpo. Her torturer, oddly enough, is a young man who lived for rent with Maria’s mother and had an unresolved passion for her. While Maria undergoes the torture sessions and experiences an unusual flirtation with the torturer, her mother sets out to find him in Buenos Aires.

“El Mismo Amor, la Misma Lluvia”

(Juan José Campanella, 1999)

From the same director of the award-winning “The Secret of Your Eyes” (and with the same couple of protagonists, Ricardo Darín and Soledad Villamil), the film tells a love story with many encounters and shifts, which begins in the 80s and takes place until the end of the 90s. The background is the story of Argentina during the end of the dictatorship, the Falklands War and the beginning of the Menem years.

“Kamchatka”

(Marcelo Piñeyro, 2002)

The dictatorship seen through the eyes of a ten year old child. His parents, fleeing the army, inhabited by Cecila Roth and Ricardo Darín, take the boy to a house outside Buenos Aires. Instead, one of the few alternatives to pass the time was to play a variant of our war, in which Kamchatka, a Russian province, seemed like a place of refuge and hope. When the couple finally disappear, it is the memory of this place that the boy will keep from his parents.

“Illuminated by el Fuego”

(Tristan Bauer, 2005)

The suicide attempt of a former soldier who fought in the Falklands War (1982), today, reminds one of his companions of the period in which they participated in the illusion of the military commanders of the ‘era, who had their troops trained because the boys believed it would be possible to beat England in a battle for the Falkland Islands. The latest moving scenes were recorded on the islands themselves for the first time in Argentine cinema.

“Chronicle of a fugue”

(Adrián Caetano, 2006)

Based on a true story, it tells of an attempt to escape a group of prisoners from the dreaded Mansion Seré, a detention and torture center. Among them, Claudio Tamburrini, goalkeeper of a football team who became a symbol of the fight against repression after the episode. Held at a time when Argentine cinema was on the international stage, the film had broad international repercussions.

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