Directed by Albertina Carri
following film notes were prepared for the New York State Writers
Institute by Kevin Jack Hagopian, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies
at Pennsylvania State University:
"I foresee that man will resign himself each day to new abominations, and soon that only bandits and soldiers will be left..." - Jorge Luis Borges,
"The Garden of Forking Paths," 1942 In the 1970's, Argentina seemed a South American hell, run by bandits and soldiers, always bent on new abominations. From 1976 to 1983, in the name of suppressing terrorism, the military junta which governed Argentina tortured and killed thousands of Argentineans. In the sinisterly named "National Reorganization Process," President Jorge Rafael Videla's government made war on its own citizens, detaining them incommunicado, torturing them, murdering them, and secreting their bodies. Videla and his successor presidents operated what came to be known as "The Dirty War" against the political Left that claimed between 9,000 and 30,000 Argentineans dead or missing.
The Dirty War gave the world a horrifying new noun: to be among "the disappeared" now means to be made missing and presumed dead by the ruling regime. The fate of "los desparecidos" haunts the generation that followed them; in death, the disappeared are almost as real in Argentina as they were in life, haunting the political scene with their mute testimony against the lies and power mongering that killed them. Many in that next generation grew up orphaned, their families sacrificed to a sham war on terrorism whose only victory was against the civil liberties of Argentina, and whose legacy was a slogan of heartbreaking resolve: "nonca mas": never again.
Albertina Carri was one of those orphans. Her parents were taken in 1977, when she was four. In her fact/fiction hybrid film Los Rubios (2003), she returns to Argentina to craft a film that investigates the malleability of memory, and the "truth" of any account of events as morally cosmic as the Dirty War. A neighbor tells the character based on Ms. Carri that she remembers the family well - they all had blond hair. This unambiguous fact anchors the woman's recollections of the Carri's traumatic disappearance, and the narrative she tells herself about her own culpability in a program of extirpation and extermination that required the silence of millions to accomplish the slaughter of thousands. But this "fact" is as subject to revision as history itself; who are those people wearing blond wigs who can be seen in the old neighborhoods?
Los Rubios is not a romantic attack on the junta. It is rather a warning about the slipperiness of what another political filmmaker in South America called "the official story," that stew of media narrative, political indoctrination, and "common sense" which we come to accept as our own political history. When her complicity in this complex edifice of self-deception is revealed to her, the cinematic Carri is left without even the solace of a coherent story about those awful days; she can only shake her head and say, "All I have are vague memories contaminated by so many versions." Cultural critics have a name for the acts of historical invention we practice to fill in certainty for ambivalence: "prosthetic memory." For Carri, such acts of invention are pathological responses to events too monstrous for ordinary coping mechanisms.
Los Rubios is absurd, tragic, and sometimes, hilarious. It seeks not to eulogize the disappeared in solemn, self-important terms, but to make them as alive and real in the cultural sphere as they are in the political arena, a Borgesian lesson in the ultimate fiction: that of ultimate certainty.
— Kevin Hagopian, Penn State University
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.