“La historia oficial” Spainish with English subtitles
Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 52 min.
Our Content ratings (0-10): Violence 2; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly…
From Luke 1:46b-55
Argentinean director Luis Puenzo’s The Official Story, winner of the 1985 Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a film that deserves to be better known, especially by those interested in peacemaking and social justice. Alicia Marnet de Ibáñez is both a housewife with a little adopted daughter and a high school history teacher in Buenos Aires. The time is right after the “Dirty War,” around 1983 when the military dictatorship that had murdered thousands of opponents has lost power. Alicia’s husband Roberto, a prosperous lawyer with strong ties to the old dictatorship, had come home one night five years earlier with a baby girl whom they name Gaby. He had refused to tell how he came by her, ordering her not to ask any questions. She meekly complied.
At school her students, very much against the old regime, consider her ignorant of what has been going on in the world. They are distrustful of the official story of history, declaring that history is written by assassins. Also a fellow teacher talks with her about the political situation.
Alicia grows more curious and concerned about the circumstances of the adoption after meeting with Ana, an old friend who had dropped out of sight years before without saying goodbye. Ana reveals that she had been arrested, tortured, and sent out of the country immediately. She mentions that several of the prisoners had been pregnant women whose children had been taken away and given to wealthy couples.
Fearfully setting out to find the truth, Alicia tries to find out about the birth mother at hospitals, but receives little help. Along the way she meets Sara, a member of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. The latter is the huge public square where a large circle of women march around carrying placards with slogans and pictures of those who have “disappeared.” The grandmothers and mothers are demanding to know the fate of their stolen children and other loved ones.
Sara assumes at first that Alicia is seeking the fate of her own child, but eventually learning the truth, she is brought together with Gaby—and when he returns home, with Roberto. The resulting tragic confrontation marks the end of Alicia’s marriage, but the beginning of her emergence into responsible adulthood. Whenever I read a theologian writing about “conscienticization,” the process of the oppressed coming to an awareness of their situation and moving to correct it, I think of this film as the perfect example. The characters are fictional but the details are true to life.
If you find this material useful, please help us keep afloat financially by going to the Visual Parables Store and buy access to one of the issues–or buy an annual subscription to Visual Parables at the special $10 off price (during Dec. 2014 only).