By Directed by Benjamin Naishtat
Bord Cadre Films, 2018, pp.
This thoughtful, disturbing melodrama is set in a nondescript provincial town in Argentina in 1975. The film’s action occurs just prior to the 1976 military coup that launched the “Dirty War,” a period of repression that would end up killing thousands of Argentines. Naishtat focuses on the silence and complicity of average citizens more interested in safeguarding their own modest, quiet lives than in resisting the atrocities visited on their neighbors and peers by right-wing death squads, which were already “disappearing” opponents even before the coup. The film is dedicated to a recently deceased legal defender of political prisoners. The protagonist is Claudio, an aloof, rather haughty lawyer, well respected in his community. He gradually becomes aware of the horrors occurring all around him, but he does not get involved. Claudio’s moral center collapses utterly when he decides to make quick profits from the empty properties of victims of state terrorism. Naishtat skillfully mixes mundane scenes of daily life (birthday parties, tennis matches) with noir atmospherics and absurdist comedy. Could it happen here? The film reminds viewers everywhere that, indeed, it did happen in Argentina and that it was all too easy for many Argentines to avert their gaze from the state-sponsored violence of the Dirty War.