“Argentina, 1985”: Jovial Justice in the Trial of the Juntas

The New Feature Film by Argentinean Santiago Miter has been Covered by the Media and Commented on by Film Critics. Now, it is Available on the Amazon Prime Video Streaming Platform. This is our Review of “Argentina, 1985”..

Still from the film 'Argentina, 1985'

Photo: YT-Prime Video

LatinAmerican Post | Staff

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Leer en español: “Argentina, 1985”: Justicia jovial en el Juicio de las Juntas

"Argentina, 1985" is the latest feature film by Argentinean Santiago Mitre, whom the audience already knew from his most recent film "La Cordillera" (2027). The film, as its title announces, takes place in Argentina in 1985, the year in which the Trial of the Military Juntas took place. Never before in the world had a country's military commanders been tried in a civilian court. Argentina's trial in the 1980s was ordered by President Raúl Alfonsín, who had come to power two years earlier, in 1983, with the arrival of democracy. In it, the coup plotters who had been in power since 1976 were tried. For the first time, then, a dictator was tried: Jorge Videla.

The film, which represents the Juicio de las Juntas, belongs to the judicial drama genre. Its protagonist is prosecutor Julio Strassera, played by Ricardo Darín, who is already an internationally recognized figure. Strassera, father of two children, has the task of carrying out the investigation and then the allegation that will prove that the violation of Human Rights during the dictatorship was systematic and knowing of the military commanders. This, while supporters of the dictatorship threaten him and his family.

Who can face Videla?

The first obstacle Strassera runs into is, of course, skepticism in his own office, with the certainty, based on despair, that the trial will not be successful but merely a government formality. Since no one is willing to work with him on the case, he is assigned a young deputy prosecutor: Luis Moreno Ocampo, played by Peter Lanzani.

Moreno Ocampo is a young prosecutor from a military family, which at first generates resistance from Strassera, who is convinced that he is being spied on. However, as often happens, this couple will not only learn to work together, but will form a sometimes comical duo in which one complements the other.

As lawyers with judicial careers are afraid to participate in the trial, our duo of prosecutors will form a team of young lawyers "who have nothing to lose". This emphasis on the youth and inexperience of the lawyers who make up Strassera's team not only gives a comic tone, but sometimes lightens the heavy subject matter of the film (some, for example, claim to be there because their father suggested it, because they need to be paid overtime, because they need work experience), but it gives a new perspective on the dictatorship. Precisely because they have nothing to lose (a career or a family), young lawyers are freer, they can be insolent, make jokes and speak the truth. In addition, they did not experience the dictatorship first-hand (they were children and adolescents during the Videla government), which gives them a distance that refreshes the solemnity with which Strassera sometimes approaches the investigation.

During the process of gathering the evidence, the film focuses on these young lawyers, who give an air of hope, which surely existed in Argentina after the return of democracy. His trips to listen to the testimonies and to convince the victims of the State to speak in court make up, perhaps, the most cheerful and warm sequence of the film.

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Testimonies in court

Despite the fact that the youngsters give a jovial tone to the investigation, “Argentina, 1985” is not a light film. When the court trial begins, we will see the victims give their testimony. Here, the film also uses footage from the actual trial, reminding us viewers that what we're hearing did happen.

In some films about dictatorships, acts of cruelty are represented realistically in order to denounce from the cinema what the media did not denounce at the time. This is not the case of “Argentina, 1985”, which does not represent the acts, but rather makes us hear them from the voice of the victims. Testimony in court is usually the emotional climax of judicial dramas and, in this area, "Argentina, 1985" does not propose or risk much in its form. However, these scenes are strong enough to finally convince the viewer, if they were not already convinced, of the atrocities committed by the State.

"Never more"

This is the phrase with which Strassera ends his argument in court and whose authorship he completely renounces, since it will be from then on a phrase of the entire Argentine people. “Argentina, 1985” stars an old-fashioned public official: a reserved, grumpy man who is jealous of his daughter, who sticks rigidly to the duties of his office and who takes care of his daughter very seriously. family. This focus on the public official who, in principle, could hardly be read as a hero, not only works for the plot of the film, but also reinforces the institutionality that Argentina wanted to return to after the dictatorship.

Of course, this is a film in which the hero learns along the way: not only does he dismantle his prejudices about Moreno Ocampo's family or about the inexperience of his team, but he also learns that the court is also a theater. Strassera understands that he must not only convince the judge, but the entire country: the victims who are still afraid and the people who still sympathize with the finished dictatorship. This theatricality of which the hero becomes aware gives the film a reason for being: now all this is being told to us, the viewers. And, as Fernanda Solórzano says in her review, perhaps seeing this story again can bring a sense of justice imparted by extension in the other countries in which there was never a trial that recognized the cruelty of military dictatorships.

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