Movie night: The Official Story (Luis Puenzo, 1985)

Sunday 26 March 2023, Movie night: The Official Story / La historia oficial (Luis Puenzo, 1985) * 112 minutes * In Spanish, subtitles in English. Doors open at 20:00, film starts at 20:30.

A classic of outspokenly political cinema, The Official Story is so ‘classic’ in its form that it even won the oscar for best foreign language film at the academy awards. It was the first time that the yankees ever deigned to acknowledge the existence of cinema, really strong cinema, in their Latin American backyard.

How could this happen at the height of Reaganism? Perhaps because this film put a bourgeois family at the centre of the (official) story, so it was easy for American audiences to relate to them. It also kind of presents an easy badie: the evil military junta (1976-1983) obscuring the business interests that supported it from way up north. Spectators with a bit more historical perspective could read this between the lines, others could just cringe-watch what these banana republic folks got up to, from the airheadedness of their candied popcorn.

Personally I think Argentinean cinema has been great at stealing 1940s Hollywood form (arguably a German invention) and packing powerful stories inside it. It’s been doing this ever since Puenzo’s feat at the oscars, persistently beating Americans at their own game. If you ask me what my favourite Hollywood movie is, I’d probably say this one.

What else does it do apart from denounce political crimes? It shifts our Che Guevara image of the guerrillero to include women. Pregnant young women were targeted very specifically because there was a market for babies in the ranks of the military junta and among middle class supporters of the regime. Why that was is a matter of some speculation that we hope to discuss before and after the movie. Maybe we’ll also read a poem or two by Juan Gelman, who became the poster boy for grandparents in search of the lost children of the desaparecidos.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to screen a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net