Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nuestro Cine: Innocence lost

Trial proceedings commenced this week in the “baby theft” trial against ex-Argentine strongmen Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone. Both of the former Dirty War-era leaders stand accused of masterminding a “systematic plan” where at least 34 babies were removed from mothers of dissidents detained by authorities at the infamous ESMA military base. Some of these mothers would be tortured and either killed or disappeared while the children were placed under illegal adoption. It is estimated that hundreds of Argentine children grew up not knowing the identities of their biological parents.

The trial against Videla and Bignone comes in the wake of several recent court decisions against former officials behind the horrors of the Dirty War period. (Videla, for instance, was sentenced to life imprisonment last year for the deaths of 31 dissidents).

In the twenty-seven years since the end of the Dirty War ended Argentina’s film industry has tackled the abuses of the era. 1985 Best Foreign Film Oscar winner “The Official Story” (“La historia oficial”) was an emotional drama that focused on the illegal adoptions during the Dirty War. Another movie, “The Prize” (“El Premio”), reflects on childhood during the military junta’s rule yet does so mainly from the perspective of a seven-year-old girl, Cecilia. This film, which won the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, is set during the Dirty War and shows how the innocence of a small child clashes with the harsh authoritarianism of the era. In one scene, for instance:
The teacher’s sense of how to get along in a state-controlled society is tested when the class has to write essays in praise of the army but Cecilia writes things such as “the army is bad”, “soldiers are crazy”, “they killed my cousin”. (Her mother) Lucia is mortified when Cecilia shows her a copy and she knows she must try to get the essay back before the army sees it.
In the clip below from Argentine television, “El Premio” director Paula Markovitch reflected on how the attacks against intellectuals and artists during the Dirty War served as “an own-goal” against Argentine society:

Online Sources- Al Jazeera English,, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, The Hollywood Reporter
Video Source – YouTube

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