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Review | Argentina, 1985 – The country’s representative at the Oscars brings Ricardo Darín in a memorable performance

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Film seen at the Rio 2022 Film Festival.

If today we all have the freedom to write and express our opinions, whatever they may be, it is thanks to democracy. This political system, which has governed the countries of Latin America for nearly forty years, was put in jeopardy in the recent past, when many countries passed under the regime of military dictatorship, including Brazil. After almost four decades of democratic restoration, the time has also come to look back and talk about this period, so as not to repeat today the mistakes of the past. In an attempt to engage with current and future generations, Argentina is launching its 2023 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, titled ‘Argentina, 1985’, which just premiered on Prime Video for all subscribers. .

With the end of the period of military rule in Argentina (which tortured, persecuted and randomly killed civilians under a self-legitimized discourse of confronting “insurgents”, “populists”, “communists”, “subverts” – people who, at the discretion of the army, would be against Argentine progress), the judiciary of the country seeks to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable and to punish them, and, given the impossibility of carrying out the trial in the military sphere the process falls into the civilian sphere, so in order to proceed it is necessary for a prosecutor to come up and present the case, therefore facing the most cruel and dangerous military of the dictatorship. This is how prosecutor Julio César Strassera (Ricardo Darín) ends up directing the most important trial in the history of Argentina, assisted by assistant prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani). Together, they managed to collect over 700 testimonies from survivors as evidence of the atrocities committed by the dictatorship.

“Argentina, 1985” is presented to the world on the exact day the judicial process began, thirty-seven years earlier, October 21, and celebrating 35 years of democracy in the country. This period also signals that babies and children of this era are now adults, forming their own families, which demonstrates the importance of cinema in not letting current and future generations forget the horrors of the past. In this sense, the film functions as an important tool against the social memoricide that threatens to take hold of Latin American countries in recent years.

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Starting from such a sensitive and important theme, the screenplay by Mariano Llinás and Santiago Miter makes personal choices not to delve too deeply into the painful social drama. Thus, from the two hours and twenty minutes of production, a good part follows the individual dilemmas of the prosecutor of Strassera, from his paranoia about the boyfriend of his daughter, through his quest to assemble a team of assistant lawyers for compose the file and, finally, the multiple threats suffered by his family following the trial. As we constantly accompany the protagonist, we lose part of the involvement with the social context, which very timidly enters the plot of the character of Peter Lanzani, a lawyer whose family is military. For those who are not Argentinian, it is a bit difficult to follow. On the other hand, the scenario manages to give an extreme emotion to two key moments of the film: the dramatic testimony of a mother who gave birth in a military van, and the final accusation, brought by the prosecutor Strassera. These two moments, whose emotions are irresistible, will perhaps be enough to guarantee the presence of the film as a candidate for the Oscars for foreign film and, who knows, also for Darín, as best actor. It would be a deserved recognition.

Santiago Miter (who has worked four times with Darín before) makes his “Argentina, 1985” an important example of how the audiovisual sector, which is always impacted by dictatorships, can and must use the semiotic impact it a to stimulate discussion. Critical mind. The director’s dive to recreate a Buenos Aires economically lost, but under constant tension, and his effort to humanize these characters whose stories are based on real events make his film become, yes, one of the best produced by this country over the past few decades, though the women in the project have been relegated to supporting and assisting roles for the male characters.

With only one gala screening at the Rio Film Festival, ‘Argentina, 1985’ is, without a doubt, a very important and moving film. It happened in the neighboring country, but it reflects the history of many countries, including ours. Without going into the accused, the feature film shows to what extent the permanence of democracy is a constant and arduous fight, and that we cannot, today, take for granted; just watch movies like “Argentina, 1985” to understand.

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