Infancia clandestina (Clandestine Childhood)  (2011)




Director:     .

Starring:     Natalia Oreiro (Cristina, alias Charo), Ernesto Alterio (Uncle Beto), César Troncoso (Horacio, alias Daniel), Cristina Banegas (Grandmother Amalia), Teo Gutiérrez Moreno (Juan, alias Ernesto Estrada), Mayana Neiva (Carmen), Douglas Simon (Gregorio), Violeta Palukas (María), Candelaria Irigoyen (Victoria), Lucas García (Felipe), Lucas Zenone (Esteban), Dylan Ezequiel Rodríguez (Sergio), Rodrigo Romero Odriozola (Claudio), Florencia Camila Pagliaroli (Natalia), Catalina Schneider (Paola).

 a young boy has to live a secret life for reasons not totally clear to him due to the Argentina military dictatorship


Spoiler Warning:

"This movie is based on true events."

Dad wakes up his young son Juan as they have reached their destination.  All of a sudden a car comes by them.  Father Horacio shouts out a warning to his wife Cristina.  It's  a drive-by attempt at assassination of the family, but this family, both husband and wife, fire back at the assassins.  Horacio is wounded in the leg. 

1974.  After the death of President Peron, paramilitary groups started persecuting and murdering social activists and revolutionaries. 

1976.  The military seized power, unleashing the most violent repression in Argentina's history. 

1979.  Exiled in Cuba, the revolutionary leaders of Montoneros initiate the "Counterstrike Operation".  Some activists go home with their children. 

In Cuba the parents make a recording of their voices for their son.  Today the family is returning to Argentina.  They will take different routes that will separate them for awhile. They are going back home to continue the political struggle.  Juan and Vicky will go with Carmen and Gregorio.  They will act as the children's parents.  Their route will be through Brazil. 

Argentina, 1979.  The family changed Juan's name to Ernesto.  Carmen and Gregorio cross over the border into Argentina.  Their documents are examined and stamped.  They tell Ernesto to wait here with baby Vicky.  They walk off.  Ernesto's uncle comes up to Ernesto and
Ernesto asks him what is Uncle doing here?  Uncle tells him to be calm.  Uncle puts the children in a van and he drives off in the van. 

On the road Uncle has to stop for an inspection by the military.  Uncle tells Ernesto not to talk because Uncle is worried that Ernesto has picked up too many Cuban phrases since being in Cuba.  Uncle stops and has to show his papers.  Uncle stops at a house.  Ernesto's mother and father come rushing out to greet Ernesto.  Mother gives him a big hug. 

The next morning Ernesto gets up and goes over to the shed where the rest of the family are.  His father tells him that in the shed they pack the peanuts, hang up their things and everything. 

In the shed Uncle shows Ernesto his hiding place. There is a secret room behind the stacked up boxes of Mani Chocolates. 

At school, the head mistress introduces Ernesto to his new classmates.  His teacher is Zulma.  She tells him to go over and sit by Maxi.  As the teacher starts her lesson, a boy throws a piece of wadded up paper at Ernesto. 

At home, Ernesto watches his father hide some political brochures.  He asks his father who is this Belgrano person?  He's the creator of the Argentine flag.  Ernesto picks up dad's pistol and dad tells him not to touch the pistol. 

The Mani Chocolates van is backed up into the garage.  Ernesto wants to see what's going on.  He peeks through a small opening of the door and sees several people blindfolded.  The house blinds are closed and the people are told they can remove their blindfolds.  After the blindfolds are removed, the people hug each other in joy that they finished this leg of their journey.  The people are brought to attention as in the military.  Dad, using the name Daniel, tells them that until this meeting is over, the house and group are under his command.  They are here to begin assembling the Special Agitation Troops, Platoons 1 and 2.  His wife, called Charo, will hand out the defense tools.  Charo hands out pistols to the compatriots.  Uncle goes by the name of Beto. 

The compatriots live in the house with the family.  Everyone eats and sleeps in the house. 

At school, the boys watch the girls do their gymnastics.  The guys tease Ernesto because they catch him staring at one of the girls as if he were in a trance.  At home, Ernesto dreams of the girl kissing him on the back of his neck.

Ernesto tells his mother that he has a camping trip on October 12. She says that would be okay with her.  Now he asks her how did she know that she loved dad?  She says she got a different feeling in her mid-section.  Mother asks him if he fancies anyone at school?  Ernest says no, but mother thinks yes. 

Beto comes home and his brother asks him what's wrong?  Beto says it was a set-up.  It was that son of a bitch Gallego!  They hear a siren and become fearful.  Daniel gets out a sawed-off shotgun, while the others hide.  Ernesto gets into his hiding place.  False alarm!  The police car goes right by their house.

Ernesto likes the girl named Maria.  He talks to her for a little bit.  The teacher comes over to tell Ernesto that since he is new, he can have the honor of raising the flag this morning.  Ernesto says he can't.  The teacher doesn't understand why.  So Ernesto says he doesn't want to.  So the teacher has to choose another student.  The boy who threw a paper wad at Ernesto on his first day calls Ernesto a coward and asks didn't they teach him patriotism in the school he went to?  Ernesto jumps on the boy and down they go. 

Beto has to come down to the school and listen to the head mistress tell him that they can't tolerate fighting in the school.  Beto, of course, agrees with her.  He makes the two boys shake hands.  Antonio puts his hand out to shake and Ernest responds in kind.  They shake hands.

At school, the class sings "Happy Birthday" to Ernesto.  When he gets home he tells his mother that they sang the birthday song for him and Saturday there will be a party.  And, evidently, Ernesto told the other kids that the party will be at his house.  This upsets mother because she says there are too many things going on now, but Beto says he will make a pinata filled with trinkets and make a birthday cake too. 

Ernesto goes to Maria's house to make sure she knows she's invited to his party.  Maria asks if she can bring a friend and Ernesto okays it. 

Beto brings grandmother to the party.  She and Ernesto kiss each other.  Grandmother is surprised to see how tall her grandson has grown. Charo rushes out to greet her mother and they embrace and kiss. 

Dad is mad at Beto for bringing grandmother Amalia to the house.  This is totally against their safety measures!  Beto tells his brother to chill out.  They keep arguing until Beto leaves the area. 

Beto gets the party started by getting everyone to dance.  Beto dances with a woman and mom and dad also dance.

Mother and grandmother get in an argument over the children.  Grandmother wants to take the kids for awhile because she says they are not living a normal life.  Mother says no.  Grandmother keeps pressing the issue until Charo tells her that she can't do it because grandmother becomes so fearful, even panicky.  Grandmother tells her daughter to leave the area because the military is killing people.  Charo says she would rather have her children brought up by guerillas than by grandmother.  Grandmother asks:  "You want your children to be guerrillas?"  And now both women starts shouting at each other at the top of their lungs.  Dad bangs on the table telling the women:  "No yelling here!"

Grandmother now tries to convince dad that the situation here is just too dangerous to stay.  Dad says it's okay for grandmother to be scared.  They are all scared.  Now the women embrace each other and Charo tells her mother:  "It'll be fine, mom." 

Beto tells Ernesto to say goodbye to his grandmother.  He goes over and the two hug each other.  Then mother hugs the both of them together. 

Maria, Ernesto and the rest of the class go on the camping trip.  Ernesto sneaks off into the woods to talk with Maria. They find an old rusted car abandoned in the woods.  They jump up and down on the hood of the car.  Then they sit in the car an pretend they are driving to Brazil.  They start to kiss but two of boys takes a picture of them in the car.  Maria is angry and chases after them.

When the bus arrives back at the school, mom is right there to call out for her son.  He kisses Maria on the cheek and leaves the bus.  He sees that dad is driving a different car.  He asks his mother what's going on?  Dad tells him they are leaving for a few days for safety reasons.  Ernesto again asks what happened?  All his parents say is Uncle Beto.

The compatriots have a little ceremony for Uncle Beto.  Dad says some nice things about his deceased brother and they drink a toast.  Ernesto asks what happened to his Uncle?  Dad says they were making a delivery downtown and everything was going smoothly.  But then he saw Uncle with his hands in the air against the van with a cop behind him.   The policeman must have seen something, because he started freaking out and screaming.  Beto shouted that the police would not take him alive, pulled the pin out of a grenade and pushed the cop into the van.  The grenade exploded.  Ernesto says:  "But I needed him alive. Who does he think he is?" 

When Ernesto is in bed, dad comes over to tell him that he will be away for  few days to see if they can go back home.  During the night, Ernesto has a nightmare about his uncle fighting with the police and then ending it all with a grenade explosion.  His mother wakes him up and tells him he has a fever.  She, fully dressed, gets in the shower with her son to make sure he cools down enough to beat the fever. 

The family goes back home.  The parents pack up all of Beto's stuff.  Ernesto makes a call to Maria.  He hides underneath the table to make the call.  His parents hear him talking and pull him out from underneath the table.  Mother yells at him for talking on the phone and dad asks him:  "Know how dangerous it is to use the phone?"  Yes, Ernesto knows.  Mom tells him he's not going back to school anymore.  Dad says Ernesto has to suck it up like a man.  But, Ernesto is not a man.  He's a boy in love.  He yells back at his parents once, but it doesn't get him anywhere. 

Ernesto broods about it and then decides to grab his passport and take off for Brazil.  He takes some of the money from the hiding place and then goes to meet Maria.  They hop on a bus and head out.  They go to an amusement park and have lots of fun.  There Ernesto gets very serious and tells her that he likes her and he has lots of money with him.  They could go to Brazil and be together forever.  Maria asks what about about her family and what about his family?  She asks him if he's crazy?  Maria now turns to leave the house of mirrors. 

A saddened fellow, Ernesto returns home.  He lays in bed thinking about what happened.  In the morning he sees his dad get into still another car and take off. 

Over the radio Ernesto hears that the police had a clash with several subversives in Munro.  The police tried to stop a suspicious-looking vehicle.  The subversives were ordered out of the car, but they opened up with heavy fire against the policemen.  The police responded with heavy fire.  Horacio Carnevale was shot.  He was a senior member of the subversive group Montoneros.   Ernesto calls for his mother, but she's not home.  So he gets his father's pistol and bullets. 

Ernesto doses off and he dreams that people come running down the street.  Ernesto goes outside to find out what's going on.   He sees his classmates singing a song over the dead body of Ernesto.  Mother comes in screaming for Juan, who jumps up and points the pistol at his mother.  She hugs him and tells him that his father is dead.  She cries. 

The evidence of radicalism is now burned, including family photos.  While the burning continues, the police arrive at the home.  Charo runs over to tell Juan (Ernesto) to get into his hiding place with his sister.  He gets inside the hiding place and now the sound of a lot of gun fire is heard.  And now the sounds of policeman's voices are heard.  They are trying to force the lock open.  The policemen get in and pull the boy out of his hiding place.  They put him in a police car.  As he is driven to the police station, he sees Maria watching him in the car as the car passes by her. 

At the station, Ernesto is questioned.  The policeman keeps asking who he is and Ernesto keeps saying he's Ernesto.  Finally, the policeman says his father was Horacio and his mother is Cristina, isn't it Juancito?  Juan asks where is his sister?  The policeman laughs and tells him to put the rest of his clothes back on.

Now Juan is driven to his grandmother's house.  They tell him to get out of the car.  He does so and then walks over to knock on grandmother's door.  Grandmother turns the light on and asks who is it?  Juan doesn't answer, so grandmother keeps asking it until Juan answers in Spanish:  "Soy Juan."  ("I'm Juan.")


Not the best of the movies about the terrible time of the Argentine military dictatorship, but it's still pretty good.  Here we see the effects of the radicalism of the parents fighting against the military dictatorship on their young boy, who just wants to be normal and lead a normal live.  He doesn't fully realize how much danger he and his family are in.  The parents are risking their lives to fight against injustice, but it sure is hard on the boy.  The boy falls in love with a girl at his school, but it's very hard for the boy to establish a good relationship with the girl considering all the stress that his entire family is under.  The radicalism is tough on every member of the family. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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