The Official Story (1985)




Director:  Luis Puenzo. 

Starring:  Héctor Alterio (Roberto), Norma Aleandro (Alicia), Chunchuna VillafaZe (Ana), Hugo Arana (Enrique), Guillermo Battaglia (Jose), Chela Ruíz (Sara), Patricio Contreras (Benitez), María Luisa Robledo (Nata), Aníbal Morixe (Miller), Jorge Petraglia (Macci), Analia Castro (Gaby), Daniel Lago (Dante), Augusto Larreta (General), Laura Palmucci (Rosa), Leal Rey (Cura).

continued political problems (the ones who disappeared) in modern Argentina




Very good movie with lots of insights into Argentine history.  It won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. 

In 1976 a military junta took over power in Argentina.  In a short while, people just started disappearing without any trace.  When the practice became widespread a special word was coined, desapparecidos, those who have disappeared or the disappeared.  This movie deals with just one of the way too many cases of those who have disappeared. 

Set in 1983,  a high school history teacher with an affluent lifestyle, who has an adopted five year-old daughter, suspects that the girl's biological father and mother were among the disappeared.  The movie follows the story of the teacher's search for answers and her growing political awareness.

The problems of Argentina are almost immediately presented with commentary on the radio: ". . . some news media abuse their rights.  By preaching destabilization, they encourage subversive ideas."  (Sounds like the US these days.) 

We are presented with a seemingly happy family with two parents and a 5 year old girl.  But as we slowly begin to know about the family, the more we realized how trouble are the times and the family.  We learn about the 1976 military coup and the present rule by a military junta.  We learn that the military used the Malvinas War (known as the Falklands War by the British) for their own political purposes and there was a lot of corruption in the running of the war.  

We learn that her friend, Anna's husband had been killed by the military for being a subversive and that she had been terribly tortured because they thought she knew something valuable.   But Alicia does not want to hear of the troubles.  She would prefer not knowing and not thinking of unpleasant things.

Alicia's world is starting to come apart.  She teaches high school history and her students are giving her a great deal of trouble because they feel she is ignoring the bad aspects of Argentinean history (even to present events) and always pushing the good.  And one of her colleagues, Professor Benitez, is also critical of her for her naiveté.

She starts paying more attention to what's going on around her.  She starts to pay attention to the demonstrations of the mothers and other relatives of those who have disappeared or imprisoned.  One of the issues raised by the demonstrators is that many of the women who have disappeared had babies while being held by the military and these babies were given up for adoption to non-subversive parents.  This gets Alicia to wonder about her own child: Gaby.  She came to her under mysterious circumstances and, although her husbands knows something about it, he refuses to talk about the subject.  She begins to wonder if Gaby could be the daughter of a disappeared couple.

This starts to open up Alicia to consider the darker aspects of life in Argentina.  She begins to search and research for answers.  This journey is not going to be a pleasant one as it not only threatens her own concept-of-self, but threatens her own family.  Will she have the courage to keep questioning even when the answers start becoming very ugly?  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 Historical Background:


There is a dispute in the movie in Alicia's history class, where they debate about some of the founding fathers of Argentina. 


1776 – Manuel Moreno y Argumosa, Moreno’s father, born in Santander, Spain, arrived in Argentina. Later he married María del Valle and together they had fourteen children, Mariano being the firstborn.

1778 (September 3) – birth of Mariano Moreno in Buenos Aires.

He became a lawyer, journalist and politician.

He studied Latin, logic and philosophy at San Carlos Royal College and law at the University of Chuquisaca (now Bolivia).

1801  -- Moreno married.

1805  --  birth of the son, also named Mariano.

1806  --   Gen. Juan Martin de Pueyrredon recaptured Río de la Plata taken by the British.

1809  -- Moreno summarized his thoughts on economics in the book Representación de los hacendados y labradores.  He believed in the physiocratic doctrine of the key importance of agriculture.  Agricultural development was thought to be the means to counter the negative economic effects of an over-dependence on international trade. 

1810 (May 22)  --  Moreno played a key role in the May Revolution that led to Argentina’s declaration of independence from Spain. Moreno.  .

Juan José Castelli was commanded to ask viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros to resign. He gave a brilliant speech in defense of the patriotic cause and became known as the Speaker of the Revolution.

1810 (May 25)  --  swearing in of the Primera Junta of locals to govern Buenos Aires, proclaiming loyalty to King Ferdinand VII.  Faced with the imprisonment of King Ferdinand VII, Moreno became a secretary in the First Junta that replaced the viceroy.

1810 (December)  --  Junta Grande replaced Primera Junta.

Moreno helped stop the uprising of Santiago de Liniers in Córdoba (whom he had executed later) and organized the liberating expedition to Alto Perú. He was removed from office by Cornelio Saavedra.

 Moreno created the first Argentine newspaper, La Gazeta de Buenos Aires.

1811-1812  --  Gen. Juan Martin de Pueyrredon was commander of the patriot Army of the North.

1811 (March 4) – at age 32, he died on the high seas during a journey to Great Britain. He was trying to gain British support for Argentine independence. (Many were suspicious that he was assassinated.)

1811 (September)  --  First Triumvirate of Feliciano Chiclana, Juan José Paso and Manuel de Sarratea replaced Junta Grande.

1816 (July 9)  --  the Congress declared the independence of Argentina.

1820  --  the Battle of Cepeda, between the Unitarians (who supported a strong centralized state) and Federals (largely provincial caudillo warlords who wanted decentralized authority), was won by the Federals.

1825   --  the United Kingdom recognized Argentina's independence.

1828  --  Juan Lavalle organized the Unitarian revolution.  He was then chosen governor of Buenos Aires Province.  (One of his unfortunate decisions was to execute former governor Manuel Dorrego, which ignited a civil war.)

1828  --  Manuel Dorrego, a firm supporter of Federalism, was executed by mutinous Unitarian troops.  (Dorrego had stepped into the political void created after the resignation of the first President of Argentina, the liberal Bernardino Rivadavia.) 

1829-1852  --  conservative caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas, federalist, ruled Argentina.

1862-1868  --  Bartolomé Mitre (1821-1906), President of Argentina. 


Historical Background:

1974 – Perón died, leaving his widow Isabel Martínez de Perón as president.

1976 (March) – military coup deposed Martínez de Perón.

1976-1983 – the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional military government repressed political and armed opposition. It used torture, forced disappearance and extra-judicial killing up to 30,000 people

1982 – leader General Leopoldo Galtieri sent troops to the Falkland Islands triggering the Falklands War with Great Britain.

1982 (mid-June) – a British task force retook the Falkland Islands.

1983 – the military government collapsed, followed by the election of Radical Raúl Alfonsín as president.

1989 --  hyper-inflation and political turmoil give the election to Peronist Carlos Menem. 



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