Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Official Story

(La historia oficial, Argentina, 1985)

There’s no way I could get very deeply into the swamp that is Argentine politics. There was Juan Peron, who the Argentines apparently worshiped, then his wife Eva, who Andrew Lloyd Webber was interested in, and his second wife, Isabel, who was president from 1974-76. She was overthrown by a military junta, exiled, and is still alive today in Spain. She is 87, and if she returns to her homeland it better be in a wooden box, otherwise she will be arrested for the forced disappearance of a dissident. “Forced disappearance” is an Argentine euphemism for “he’s dead, and we will never find the body.”

But we’re not talking Isabel here, we’re talking about the Grade Z monster generals who took over in a coup. They held power until a few years after Argentina got their butts whipped in the Falklands War, when the people finally had enough and tossed the bloody-handed murderers out.

(Some of them were convicted and promptly pardoned, except for one unfortunate officer, Adolfo Scilingo, who was sentenced by a Spanish court to 640 years for literally hundreds of war crimes. Then the Supreme Court heard the appeal and decided 1084 years was a more appropriate term. I’ll bet that worried him! Sadly, he will only have to serve 30 years, if he can.)

During this military dictatorship, which they hilariously called the “National Reorganization Process,” literally thousands of citizens were reorganized right into the ground. They organized little vacation getaways where prisoners were herded onto airplanes that took off full and returned, without landing, empty. The ones that were never heard of again were called desaparecidos.

Alicia is an upper middle class schoolteacher who is almost totally oblivious to all this. She and her husband, a government bureaucrat, have adopted a little girl, Gaby. It’s her fifth birthday now, and finally Alicia begins to notice things. She begins to suspect that her daughter is the child of one of these disappeared women. A woman shows up who is sure Gaby is her daughter’s child. Alicia begins to suspect that hubby pulled some strings to do the adoption. Of course, it’s all true. The woman is Gaby’s grandmother, and her husband is guilty. (He’s in trouble with the regime, too, which made me happy.) What to do? Gaby loves her family, but grandmother has rights, too, doesn’t she? Alicia and Granny eventually find a path that satisfies both of them. This is a very, very good movie, though hard to watch without wincing. I never expected a happy ending, but this one qualifies. Best Foreign Language Oscar for 1985.