Chico (2001)

 

 

Director:     Ibolya Fekete.

Starring:     Jnos goston,  Sasa Anocic,  Gyula Bodrogi,  Andrs Fss,  Sergio Hernndez,  Vjekoslav Jankovic (Zagi),  Djordje Kukuljica,  Besim Kurti,  Arben Lami,  Camilio LeBert,  Damir Loncar,  Tams Mszros (rpi),  Loreto Moya,  Ills Nyitrai,  Daniel Remedi,  Eduardo Rzsa Flores (Chico),  Peter Stock,  Richie Varga (Jimmy),  Enes Vejzovic,  Mladen Vulic.

a determined communist filled with rage becomes an idealistic journalist, but also fights for Croatia against the Serbs

 

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. 

Fictional and real events are woven together in the movie. 

The Present.  The Balkans (Croatia).  Chico and Jimmy are driving in a jeep.  They run over a land mine and an explosion goes off.  Both men are hurt. 

Flashback to Chico's youth.  As a boy Chico runs into a post column on his porch.  He gets a nasty scar from the encounter.  (The scar from Croatia now hides the first scar.)

The Yugoslavia Cease Fire Committee, representatives of the Croatian government and journalists set off from Osijek, the fourth largest city of Croatia, with a military escort.  They run into anti-tank mines and have to stop.  The Yugoslav army and the Chetniks allow the committee to continue, but journalists have to halt.  Chico gets into a different car with a fellow in a business suit.  While the journalists are turned back, Chico proceeds ahead with the man.  One of Chico's rivals calls him a bastard,  ". . . he got in again."  Chico sees a lot of dead bodies on the ground. 

Chico's driver returns to drop Chico off with his partner Fabrizio.  He tells Chico not to say he saw anything from the view from his car.  As Chico and his partner start to drive, someone fires at them.  Chetniks? they wonder.   Chico says: "Fabrizio, we're dead."  Both men play dead.  A couple of guys come to check on them and then leave.  Fabrizio waits for a little while, then screeches out of there. 

Chico reminisces that he worked for a Spanish paper, so people thought he was Spanish.  (Hence the name of Chico.)  Actually his mother was Spanish.  His family were Bolivians, though his father was a Hungarian Jew.  Chico had three passports:  Spain, Bolivia and Hungary.  He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth with many of his family members holding high positions in Bolivia.  His father was an immigrant artist who taught at Santa Cruz Academy.  Although he was Jewish, he was baptized in Budapest.  Father was an illegal Communist.  He and his wife would rehearse plays in his studio.  He became the best known Bolivian playwright.  He had ties with Che Guevara so he was expelled by the Bolivian Communists.  They later took him back.  Father talks a great deal about the poor and the necessity of fighting for them.  By the coup of '71 he was Academy director.  He hid with the Silesians who smuggled him out to Chile.  After a year in Chile, dad sent for the family to be with him. 

Chico says that Chile was paradise to the family.  Dad became Salvador Allende's art advisor.  Chico joined the Ramon Parra Brigade.  They painted political slogans on the walls of the city of Santiago.  He joined the Young Communists when he was just 12 years old.  He describes Chile as an over-politicized society.  The kids in school were separated in class by their political affiliations.  The kids Chico knew talk about Che and revolutionary politics. 

But then Allende is overthrown.  General Leigh reports that he is ready with four bomber aircraft to attack Moneda and the presidential palace.  Two bombs are dropped on the roof of the palace.  Allende speaks on the radio.  He says that his and their struggle has not been in vain.  He goes off the radio.  A fight starts in class between the kids of different political factions.  News arrives that Allende has committed suicide.  Soldiers invade Chico's house.  The boy feels a great rage welling up in him at the injustice of it all.  A soldier discovers a sign on the house outside wall saying:  "Comrade Allende lives!"  Chico's father tells the soldier that he did not paint the sign.  Rather his son Ricardo painted it.  This gets the dad out of deeper trouble. 

The family has to go to a UN refugee camp.  Chico's father is stripped of his Bolivian citizenship.  Chico says good-bye to his friend.  His friend's family resisted when the soldiers came to his house and everyone was shot during the house search, except for his mother.  There is a considerable  flow of political refugees (most of them lefties) out of Chile.  Chico and his family are shifted around from country to country.  They finally end up in Hungary.  Chico views his stay there as just a new exile for himself.  One big problem for him is that he does not know the language. 

May the First demonstration in Hungary pushing Hungary and Soviet friendship.  Chico comments:  "I wasn't anything except a Communist like my dad." 

Flashback to Osijek, Croatia in peace time.  Serbian tanks come rolling through the streets of the city.  The people held elections, voted for independence and Croatia and Slovenia got out of Yugoslavia.  Soon old men, women and children were being forced to evacuate the city.  The people of Almash and Erdut were also fleeing from Chetnik bandits allied with the Yugoslavian army.  These people headed for Osijek.  Some went by boat. 

Chico took a natural liking to the Croatians.  He was attracted by the way the people could touch each other without people getting offended.  He comments that it was stupid to try to reach Vukovar by the main road.  Chico is forced from his car and repeatedly kicked.  He is held captive where he gets slapped around repeatedly.  The Chetniks accuse Chico of being a spy.  A Yugoslavian officer from Macedonia finally gets him released, because the press was looking for Chico.  When Chico gets back to Croatia he goes directly to the Croatian military to mark down the enemy positions that he saw on his journey of captivity.  A Croatian cameraman is killed.  All these events make Chico so mad that he decides to become a Croatian soldier in order to kill Chetniks and Serbs.  He is accepted into the military. 

Chico talks to his father on the phone.  His dad is very mad at him.  He scolds his son for fighting for Croatia which supported the Ustashas, the fascists.  Chico and his father have an argument.  Chico later comments that he didn't like Jnos Kdr's brand of socialism.  It was too lukewarm. (Kdr was the communist leader of Hungary from 1956 to 1988. )

Flashback to life with the Soviets.  Chico daydreams about returning to Chile and shooting a lot of the conservative Chileans.  He applied to join a military college.  Chico was accepted to be a border guard.  He went to Minsk, to the KGB academy for his training.  Problems started for him there.  Even the officers didn't believe what they taught to the students.  Chico develops an ulcer and is sent home temporarily.  He is assigned to the Rumanian border for a year.  The Soviets want him for counter-intelligence.  At the border Chico runs across a Spanish fellow who needs a briefcase from another fellow.  He speaks to Chico about getting the briefcase for him.  Chico gets the case, finds it to be filled with cash money and turns it over to the Spanish guy.  The man is actually the famous terrorist known as the Jackal.  Chico's superior tells Chico that he should let himself be at the man's disposal. 

Chico runs into the Jackal again on the border.  The guards refuse to let the Jackal take his pistol with him into the airport terminal.  Chico intervenes in the dispute and compromises between the parties involved.  The Jackal gives Chico his gun and Chico promises to give it back to him later.  The Jackal wants to visit with a woman from the RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion  -- Red Army Faction) and his wish is granted.  Chico avoided a serious showdown between the guards and the Jackal but he gets severely scolded by the Colonel in charge.  He tells Chico to never interfere with his guards again.  This makes Chico very angry and he threatens to quit the military.  Chico's immediate superior levels with him and tells him frankly that he is a bit too unpredictable and therefore dangerous to the Soviets.  The decision is made to let Chico go  -- he is too much of a headache for them. 

Chico runs into the Jackal once again.  This time all they do is chat.  Chico moves on to Croatia.  He comments that there everything came together for him. 

Flashback to Croatia at war.  Chico goes on a mission to a village controlled by the Chetniks.  He and a small group of fighters are dropped off in the center of the village.  This place is where he first got his name of Chico.  Chico goes walking by himself.  The town is really a Hungarian village in Croatia.  The Hungarians fight as Croatians against the Serbs.  News arrives that the enemy has reached the railroad tracks.  The Croatian group heads toward the enemy.  Chico throws a hand grenade into a building with Serbian snipers in it, killing them.  One of his mates examines the dead bodies and brings down their wallets to Chico.  Chico looks through one of the wallets and finds a picture of father and son.  The journalist soldier cries. 

Flashback to life in Albania.  Chico is on an Italian boat.  He flirts with an Argentine barmaid on the vessel.    Back in '89 he worked for a Spanish paper reporting on political changes in Eastern Europe.  He is sent to Albania while he personally  is in a complete state of confusion.  At the border with Greece he goes into Greece to get liquor for the guards.  He brings the liquor back and he and the guards enjoy sharing the liquor. 

Chico observes that Albania with its great poverty reminded him of the numbing poverty of Chile.  Chico talks to a Catholic priest who was compelled to do forced labor for preaching the gospel in Albania. He worked for 25 years in a mine.  Chico comments that suddenly he understood. When they toppled the statue of Enver Hodja (communist leader of Albania for 40 years until his death in 1985), he went with the students.  Soldiers shot into the crowds.  This filled Chico afresh with rage and battle-lust. 

Flashback to Croatia at war.   In Croatia Chico starts to round up a squad of fighters.  One fellow, Jimmy, a Croatian by way of Chicago, Illinois, stayed with him to the end.  Vukovar became totally surrounded. Chico says that they were fighting ultimately against American imperialism.  His paper reward him for his Albanian reports with a bonus trip.  He takes a trip to Jerusalem, Israel.  He says Israel blew his mind.  He goes to an Argentine restaurant where he encounters an old friend from his years in Santiago, 1971-1973.  Chico goes to a Catholic church to confess.  He says he abandoned God to become a Communist.  He is still filled with rage and hate.  But, he says, Croatia washed it all away.  Chico returns to Croatia and fights. 

After an 88 day siege, Vukovar fell to the Yugoslavian army,  Seselj's Chetniks and Captain Arkan's men.  Some 15,000 trapped civilians were evacuated from the city.  "We're next" is the feeling among the Croatian forces with whom Chico was associated. Jimmy had gone on a 5 day leave back to Chicago.  When he returned, Chico picked him up in a jeep. 

Chico's small village becomes surrounded.  The roads are cut off.  There is no way into the village.  Croatian causalities start to mount.  The commander of the Croatian forces tells his men that he is ordering them to leave.  As they leave there is to be no talking or smoking.  The next day Arkan and his men march into the empty village. 

Back to the Present.   Chico and Jimmy run over a land mine.  Chico is in a coma for six days, during which he is given Croatian citizenship.  Croatia was born says Chico, but he personally lost the village and the lads he had recruited.  Later the Croatians got the village back, but Chico still could not find the bodies of his buddies.  The Serbs dug up the graves of the Croatian fighters so they would not rest in peace. 

Chico takes a stroll around the ruins of the village looking for reminders of his lads. 

 

A good movie.  It kept my interest because Chico was really an internationalist, not just in philosophy.  He was in Bolivia, Chile, Hungary, Croatia, Albania and Greece, among other places.  I kept wondering how he was going to land up in Croatia from his start in Bolivia.  He is an idealist communist like his father, but ends up fighting for the freedom of the formerly fascist Croatia (which helped Hitler in return for his support of their independence) from the former Yugoslavia.  Eduardo Rzsa Flores was very good as Chico.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

1991 - 1995  --  the war of independence in Croatia. 

1991  --  the war started between Croatian police forces and the rebelling Serb minority (which had proclaimed an autonomous Republic of Serb Krajina).

The rebel Serbs got support from the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA).  The Yugoslav army was able to stop the Croatians from quelling the rebellion.  The goal of the Serbs was to get as much Serb-controlled territory from Croatia as possible. 

1991 (September)  --  the Battle of Vukovar begins. 

1991 (October 5)  --  Croatia begins general mobilization.

1991 (November 18)  --  the Battle of Vukovar ends.  264 people, mostly Croats, were murdered by the Serb militias aided by the Yugoslav Army.  eljko Ranatovic "Arkan" directed the Serb militias in much of the pillaging and murder.

The city of Osijek (near the eastern border of the country) avoided heavy destruction (unlike nearby Vukovar).  There was some damage to the town center and the main church of St. Peter and Paul. More than 1,200 civilians died in the bombings.

1995 (early May)  --  the Croatian army took back the whole of the Serbian occupied territory in western Slavonia.  The Serbs rocketed Zagreb, killing 7 and wounding over 175.

1995 (August)  --  Croatia overruns most of the RSK (Republic of Serb Krajina).  Perhaps as many as 200,000 Serbs flee to Serbia and Bosnia. 

1995 (December)  --  the Dayton Agreement (from Dayton, Ohio) was signed in Paris.

 

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