Argentinian Films on the Dirty War

My Project

I watched five Argentinian films concerning the disappeared (desaparecidos) in the “Dirty War” from 1970 – 1983.  Below I will give a few impressions of the films.  I hope the list inspires others to explore.

These are my first Argentinian films — I enjoyed their dialect of Spanish. An Argentinian colleague recommended “The Official Story” when we discussed the Dirty War.  This is actually the first time I reviewed this history since my Marxist days back in grad school.  I was amazed at how much I forgot.  I tried to read wiki articles on the Dirty War while watching the films but since I know very little Spanish, it was impossible since I needed to read to subtitles.  So I would pause the films to read so that I could inform myself enough to feel the films more deeply.

The Films

The first two films I watched both had a well-off, junta-connected family who have a daughter which they were complicit in confiscating from an executed young leftist woman.

(1) In La Historia Oficial (The Official Story, 1985), the mother of the child, ironically a history teacher, begins to finally let herself question where her own adopted daughter came from and searches for her family.  Interesting film – I enjoyed it.

(2) In  Cautiva (Captive, 2005), in this film the child discovers here identity via a court used by her authentic family.  The actresses are too sexy — an unnecessary shower scene of young girls illustrate this cheap aspect of the film.  It was OK, but the cheap aspect was insulting.

(3) Imagining Argentina (2004) was nauseating for me because it centered around a psychic (Antonio Banderas) who helped locate the missing.  Poor acting with actors speaking English with Spanish accents — really poor taste.

(4) Chronicle of an Escape (2006) was a very good film.  It is the true story about a group of kidnapped leftists and the few who survived — I won’t tell you how.  You don’t learn much about the dirty war, just this drama.  It hurts to watch the torture — so don’t watch it to learn about the war — all you learn about is pain, isolation and fear.

(5) The Disappeared (2007)  Told us about the dirty war through one individual.  The film dragged on for me and seemed a bit too involved with the individual telling his story.  Something about it I did not like.

Sorry, this is not a polished post, and I am not the movie reviewing type, but I thought a few people may find it helpful.



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20 responses to “Argentinian Films on the Dirty War

  1. Wow! I’d never even heard of such as a thing as a Dirty War. I remember turmoil, Peron, and the Falklands, and whatever, but nothing known as the “Dirty War.”

    How did you come across the films? Bought them? Downloaded them? Rented them?

  2. Hi Lorena,
    Ah, right, forgot to mention — I got all the fillms from NetFlix. Do you get NetFlix up there in the tundra?

  3. I just find it funny to learn that you have a history with Marxism and then drifted towards Libertarianism. While I have a history with Libertarianism and drifted toward Marxism. Then our paths crossed as we were both learning more about Buddhism.

  4. @ Curt
    Sorry, have you commented here before? Have you been one of the several wonderful lurkers here?
    Concerning my “Libertarianism”:
    (a) it is definitely a small ‘l’ libertarianism.
    (b) my ‘libertarianism’ is more like the closest fit of isms but not something I identify with, define myself too or am bound too
    (c) I am a bundle of contradictions
    (d) I know people much brighter than me (not hard) that totally disagree with me AND they understand libertarian values.
    (e) It is fun, the dance of ideas our personalities use — it is fun crossing (as you state). Buddhism is a great crossing zone for contrary ideologies!

    Thanks for the comment, Mate — do stop in again. Sorry if you have been here but I don’t recognize you.

  5. The Dirty War is interesting in the plethora of Cold War internal strifes, since it did not become well known outside of Argentina, like Chile, or Honduras or Bolivia. Even more interesting is the influence Che’s legacy had on the left movement in Argentina years after his death.

    Thanks for the list, as of I’ve only seen one of these. I think I should make a list of my favorite documentary films.

  6. @ Kyle
    I had no idea there were so many films on the Missing. And I must say, I enjoyed the Argentina Spanish though the Argentinians are almost universally despised as snobs by other Latins. Which, not being Latin, I find humorous though it is sad.

  7. @Sabio
    Yes, I have been checking our your site for some weeks. I would guess 5 or 6 now.
    It is easy for me to loose track of time. I have been a reader of David Chapman’s sites longer. Before that I mention those in particular because
    It was through them that I came across you. I spend a lot of time on the enternet because I have so much time, so little money, and obligations that have kept me house bound.

  8. @ Curt
    Ahhhhh, got it. Interesting. Odd, eh, the connections that bring blogger together. I am sorry about your house-bound and financial situation. But interestingly, recently on “ThinkBuddha”, Will mentioned that one of the things he values most in life is good conversation and he gets much of that from the web — I understand that, and finances and homeboundness hopefully limit that very little for you.

  9. i’m always interested in what people are watching and listening to. i’ll pick up a few of these films! thanks for the review!

  10. I just watched “The Official History”. I generally don’t like movies, but that one was pretty good. Thanks very much for bringing the topic to attention.

    A few weeks ago, I read “Death Without Weeping”, which is about the infant deaths in the Brazilian Favelas that serve the sugar plantations, and it touched on a lot of the same themes.

    Alicia’s story also reminds me a bit of the story in Michael Verhoeven’s “The Nasty Girl”, which shows that the same sort of thing could happen in modern Germany. I think we sometimes like to think such stuff could only happen in the American South among backwards hicks, but in “Official History” and “Nasty Girl”, these are the elites engaging in the repression of truth. Human nature is human nature.

  11. Ya know, over the years, I have grown to dislike the expression “Human Nature”.
    I am watching “The Unknown Soldier” now. German documentary on the avg German soldier’s role in the war and the denial, the resistors (they had human nature too, btw).

    There is no one nature, eh? “Human Nature” implies a neat & tidiness that I have grown to discover is deceptive. We all say it of course — hangover from Christianities false dichotomies.

  12. Yeah, “human nature” is a vacuous phrase. I was using it in this case to imply messiness and inability to predict who is going to turn ugly, but there are better words to make the point. When I think of human nature, I think of this incredibly complex puzzle that is more mesmerizing than any mathematical puzzle I’ve ever tackled.

    I really enjoyed the movie. The pacing and structure seemed a bit cramped and deliberate, slightly amateur, but they did a good job with symbolism. Alicia’s husband is an interesting character. I can imagine him trying to absolve his guilt by “balancing it out” through raising one of the missing. The characters are mostly believable.

    You’ll have to let us know what you think about “The Unknown Soldier”; I’m starting to think you’ve got good taste in media.

  13. There is another great Documentary in the making about THE DIRTY WAR, from a young American film maker who’s Argentinean parents named her after one of the 30,000 disappeared. It seems like it has a unique point of view, in that it is being made now, in the midst of all the trials and sentencing of the military that is going on in Argentina. The Film is called FINDING MABEL–and the trailer is available on line. The website is

  14. @ Yolanda: Interesting. Drop a comment by when this film is available. I understand that they are still trying to raise money.

    @ JS Allen: Belated thanks for recommending “The Nasty Girl” — I put it on my list today.

  15. Hi there. Confession – I’ve never read your blog and really know nothing about you. I was looking up information about the shower scene in Cautiva. I thought it was a beautiful and really powerful scene – not a gratuitous one. But, I’m female and I spent most of my late teenage years sitting in 3-6 hours of life drawing classes a week. The Argentine public has a different sensibility about nudity, one that I personally believe is healthier than the American view on it, so I don’t think many Argentines would have been shocked or offended to see this at the theater. Regardless – just wanted to put in my two cents. Good luck with your journey!

  16. @ Georgia
    Thanx for stopping in. I did not find it offensive or shocking, but kind of out of place for the whole movie and given that they choose beautiful actresses, it felt intentional.
    Good luck on your journey too.

  17. N

    Watch Kamchatka – brilliant Argentine film about the Dirty War. It’s crazy, there’s so many movies that directly or indirectly touch the subject. I’m watching Un Lugar En El Mundo which is about something totally different, but still one of the main character’s backgrounds involves this subject.

  18. thanks

    Thanks for the list, I can’t wait to watch these.

  19. Don James

    A good movie is “Missing” (1982) with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. This movie is about the same type of right wing coup in Chile during the same era. An American father (J. Lemmon) trying to find his journalist son who went missing. Based on a real persons and events. The Chilean dirty war was connected and similar to the dirty war in Agentina.

  20. Thanks for the info, Don.

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