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posterState of Fear

Directed by Pamela Yates

(United States/Peru, 2005, 94 minutes, color, 35mm, in English & Spanish w/subtitles)

Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis will provide film commentary and answer questions immediately following the film screening.

The intricacies of the idea of terrorism, its political, economic, and even linguistic facets - are only now coming into the consciousness of most Americans. If we're ever to get beyond jingoistic, racist invocations of the word terrorism for every idea system we don't understand, if we're ever to begin to grasp the complex social and cultural issues that the word "terrorism" surrounds, we'll need to watch more films like Pamela Yates and Peter Kinoy's State of Fear: The Truth About Terrorism.

posterYates and Kinoy's case study is Peru, where the depredations of Shining Path, the socialist guerilla movement brought on a fierce response by the national government of Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori folded the crusade against Shining Path into his plan to bring the manifold joys of a free market, heavily corporatized economy to Peru. In his "war on terror" begun in Fujimori suspended many civil liberties in his insistence on constant demonstrations of total loyalty to his administration. Shining Path, which had already been contained by the time Fujimori began devoting vast amounts of the energy of his nation to its decimation, proved a useful tool to generate security-phobia among the Peruvian middle classes. But for the poor, Fujimori's despotic fetish to destroy Shining Path at all costs was deadly. In a dirty war, 70,000 civilians were killed by either Shining Path or government troops. Saving Peru from Shining Path cost Peru much of what was Peru…

Fujimori is gone now, disgraced by influence buying scandals, and the cracking of much of Peru's civil society by the indirect effects of the war on Shining Path. Beginning in 2000, the filmmakers were given access to the records of Peru's Truth Commission. This film is based on those records.

Paul Theroux has said about the film: "State of Fear is a brilliant and moving film, which is both a portrait of Peru and a chronicle of terror and response - fanaticism, bravery, heroism and abject fear and the way everyone is affected by such events. It is what Orwell called the aim of great art, which was both imaginative in its craftsmanship and politically committed at its heart."

The warning issued by State of Fear is not subtle, its allegory not at all hard to decode: be deeply suspicious of any government which uses a "war on terror" to cloak its own ideological and financial agenda. For it will be a war without end, and a war without victors.

— Kevin Hagopian, Penn State University

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