This week’s pick for the 1001 Movies You Must See Club was 1985’s The Official Story. I had actually never heard of this movie before, which is weird because it won a bunch of awards, including the Academy Award for best foreign film. Or maybe I had heard of it before but then I saw the cover art and decided to ignore it as best I could.
I’m actually painfully ignorant of Argentinean history in general. I know that people went missing. I know that the government was all fucked up. But ask me to say one intelligent thing about it, and I would flounder. After watching this film, that embarrassing fact hasn’t changed.
It’s not a movie I would necessarily recommend jumping into without some previous knowledge of Argentinean politics, but let’s just pretend you’re as globally uninformed as I am, you won’t have a problem following along on an emotional level rather than a political one.
The story deals with the “disappeared” of that complex political environment, many of whom were tortured and killed, many of whom were women, many of whom were mothers. Alicia Marnet is struggling to find out if her adopted daughter, Gaby, is one of the children of those missing mothers.
It’s slightly suspenseful, and a little bit romantic – as that awful DVD cover would suggest – but the film is actually slow moving and emotionally dense, as we discover the underground politics of Argentina at the same time conservative, trusting Alicia does. Though obviously not made for Americans to learn the history, the film does use the minimal political understandings of Alicia to help us along while still remaining fairly vague and, as a result, subtle.
I loved Analia Castro, who played the little girl, Gaby. What is it about foreign cinema that brings out these amazing child performances? Ponette being one of the best examples, but all of Kiarostami’s work qualifies as well. Maybe it’s because I can’t hear the proper inflection and tones in the foreign language, but Their kids seem so much cuter, original, and sincere than Ours! If my kid could be just like Gaby, and allowing that she wasn’t pulled from my poor tortured womb before I died at the hands of political extremists, I would totally keep that kid.