Argentina in 1985. The impoverished country woke up to democracy after years of military dictatorship. People would like to put an end to the past, but that depends on the outcome of the trial of nine army chiefs accused of crimes against humanity. The prosecutors, Julio Strasser and Luis Moreno Ocampo, are in danger because the fascists still maintain influence and have not gone away.
Venice (from our associate) – Another of the pictures that was presented in the main competition of the Venice Film Festival is called Argentina, 1985 and was inspired by the real trial of the commanders of the military junta. They were responsible for the massacres of the civilian population during the so-called Dirty War. The junta ruled from 1976 to 1983, when around 30,000 people were killed, kidnapped or tortured in the South American country, reports Reuters.
Argentinian director Santiago Miter’s story begins a few days before prosecutor Strasser learns that he will be the prosecutor in the second most important trial of war criminals in history – after Nuremberg.
Although the narrative primarily follows the court drama itself, it also constantly looks into the plaintiff’s privacy. His family, including his wife and two children, quickly becomes the target of threats. At one point, the father even begins to suspect his daughter’s boyfriend of being an agent.
The film is often necessarily procedural due to its subject matter and story: the team must first find evidence of the accused commanders’ guilt, interview witnesses, draft and file a lawsuit, and so on. Nevertheless, the film is not boring at all. This is helped by the believable performances of the actors led by 65-year-old Ricardo Darín, known from the Secret of Their Eyes and considered one of the best Argentine actors, and occasional humor. It feels refreshing in between the heavy and dark scenes.
Some places even earned spontaneous applause in Venice, which is not often the case especially at more generally critical journalistic screenings.
In the second half, the court interrogates the witnesses, and during some statements about the inhumane treatment of the prisoners, the viewer really feels sick. This moment is also the best time to see how the director oscillates between the serious and the light. It does not indulge in pathos. A moment later, he makes the otherwise serious Strasser react in a completely ordinary human way when he makes mocking vulgar gestures towards the dock with the accused.
The film Argentina, 1985 will be available on the Amazon Prime Video platform. | Video: Amazon Prime Video
The film formally fulfills all the rules of the genre, even the nearly two and a half hour footage is surprisingly easy to digest thanks to the balanced editing.
Of course, the picture represents only a fraction of all 833 witness statements that were heard during the five-month trial with the representatives of the junta. Even so, the layman will quickly get an idea of what one of the most numerous South American countries, where over 43 million people live today, has gone through.
In addition, the topic of war crimes committed against the civilian population is unfortunately still relevant at the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For the Argentinian audience, the film is given a contemporary stamp by the incident from last week, when a man tried to shoot the former Argentine president and current vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in public. The gun was loaded with five bullets, but it misfired at the moment of firing. The police arrested the attacker.
Current President Alberto Fernández called it “the most serious incident since the recovery of democracy” in 1983, when the junta lost power.
The director of the film was also horrified by the assassination attempt in Venice. According to him, the court from 1985 was supposed to “show once and for all that political conflicts cannot be solved by violence”.
The film Argentina, 1985 does not depart from contemporary cinematography as something completely extraordinary or at least artistically sharp. However, it is an honest, above-average genre spectacle in its category. Since it was produced by Amazon, whose video store Prime Video also operates in the Czech Republic, hopefully local viewers will soon be able to see it as well.
Directed by: Santiago Miter
The film will be available on the Amazon Prime Video platform.