The rants and raves of a teenage cinephile who is just a little bit obsessed with Catherine O'Hara and Hayao Miyazaki.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Official Story (1985)

Politically charged films are often fascinating, especially if you live or lived during the time period in which the film takes place. However, if you have absolutely no knowledge of the event(s) that serve as the basis of the story, you're more than a little bit at a loss. Such was the way I felt while watching the Argentinian Oscar-winner "The Official Story", which takes place in the 1980's in Argentina.

So, a brief history lesson! After Juan Peron's widow (not Eva, but Isabel Martinez) was ousted from Argentina, a military rule led by Jorge Rafael Videla took over in about 1976 or so. When he and his junta took control, their goal was to eliminate any dissenters to their rule, thus marking the beginning of what was called the "Dirty War".

Videla himself. He's so creepy looking.

The following years were full of "forced disappearances" of people who the government thought were activists. Really, anyone who even looked like a government dissenter was kidnapped discreetly and taken away, many of whom were never seen again. Most of these victims were tortured, many often being killed in concentration camps. Babies born by mothers who were kidnapped during this time were abducted and given to government families.

And that, my dear readers, is where "The Official Story" begins! The film starts 5 years after the protagonist Alicia (Norma Aleandro) and her government-official husband adopted a baby girl named Gaby. Alicia is visited by an old activist friend, Ana, who was one of the disappeared and reveals the terrible injustices suffered at the camps, including the kidnapping of the newborns. Alicia begins to wonder if Gaby's mother could have been tortured at the hands of the government, and sets off to find out the truth about her daughter.

The film is very human, but the political context serves as the foundation of the plot. It's just extremely important to know the background information, because when I watched the film I had absolutely no knowledge of the Dirty War and knowing about it completely changed my outlook on it.

"The Official Story" is a very slow moving film, but not to the point of being boring. In fact, the slow pace allows each character and performer to thrive, making the viewer question everyone's true motives. And, the buildup to the last scene is just superb, even if that final scene, while fiery, is a tad bit over the top. Only a little bit though.

Norma Aleandro's performance is absolutely marvelous. She portrays the political and ethical awakening of her character brilliantly, and she dominates the screen. Alicia's character arc is basically the entire plot of the movie, so it's extremely important for Aleandro to make it work, and she does it brilliantly.

Even with all the movie does right, I didn't fall in love with it, in large part due to my ignorance of the historical context. After watching the movie and doing research, it makes me appreciate the film much more and I really thank the film for giving me the motive to discover this fascinating and disturbing chapter in history. I do apologize for doing more history teaching than reviewing, but Alicia was a history teacher. She would have wanted it this way. :)



  1. This movie gets a great big "meh" from me. I don't know the history, I'm sure it would help, but I just don't care. The movie bored me to death even though the performances were halfway decent.

  2. Hey Robert, I tagged you for another one of those internet meme going around. Hope you get to it!

  3. I felt the same way you did about this film. I recognized how great it was, but without that political context, I didn't really internalize its importance. But thanks for the history lesson! I was too lazy to look up the details!

  4. Alfindeol: It's definitely slowly paced...I did like it though :P

    Whitney: No problem! I hope it was helpful, it was definitely really interesting to read and gave me a whole new outlook on the movie.

  5. It's definitely a testament to the acting when you can still feel the weight of consequences that are so rooted in a history and story that we modern peeps are so ignorant of.

    I'm not likely to forget this movie, but I doubt I'll ever revisit it.

    Thanks for the history lesson! And the creepy dude.


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