THE OFFICIAL STORY

(La Historia oficial)

Directed by Luis Puenzo. Argentina. 1985.


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In the powerful 1985 film The Official Story, Director Luis Puenzo tells the story of a teacher's awakening to conscience at the end of Argentina's "Dirty War" of the late 70s and early 80s. As in Pinochet's Chile, the military secret police sought to consolidate their power by routinely torturing and murdering students, political activists, opponents of the regime, and even expectant mothers. Many ended up as desaparecidos, people taken by the government and not returned. The film is about one mother's search for the truth about her adopted daughter and her discovery brings harsh political reality very close to home.

In The Official Story, Alicia (Norma Aleandro) lives a comfortable middle class life. She teaches History to high school students and enjoys a family that includes her well-to-do husband Roberto (Hector Alterio) and 5-year old adopted daughter Gaby (Analia Castro). Not used to asking questions, she believes whatever she has read in history books and is confused when one of her students tells her that "history is written by assassins." She sees the demonstrations of the "Mothers of Plaza de Mayo", a group seeking information about missing family members but remains uninvolved. When her friend Ana (Chunchuna Villafane) visits after living in exile for many years, however, she learns, in an intensely emotional scene, that Ana had been imprisoned and tortured by the police trying to locate her husband, a suspected "subversive". 

Ana tells Alicia that many others had "disappeared" and that babies had been taken from their mothers and given to childless friends of the junta. Alicia begins to wonder if her own child was the daughter of a political victim and questions her husband but when he is evasive, she suspects that he may be hiding a dark secret. Although fearful at the prospect of losing Gaby, Alicia is determined to find out about her daughter's past and begins to search hospital records and government archives. Ultimately, she must confront her own responsibility in a climax of shattering force that underscores the tragedy of political ideologues who would rather destroy family solidarity than risk losing power.
 

Howard Schumann
 
 
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