Uruguay is, as indicated by the title a "paisito" (small country). Only Suriname can boast being smaller in South America. But being tiny does not mean avoiding big trouble. The "Switzerland of South America" indeed experienced - just like its bigger counterparts - its own military coup d'état in 1973, nine years after Brazil, shortly before Chile and some time before Argentina. But being small does not happen to be any blessing at all since, although the people of Uruguay suffered as much as the inhabitants of its brother countries, their own ordeal was somewhat overlooked by the media. That is the reason why Spanish film director Ana Díez deserves praise for highlighting this forgotten tragedy through her last opus "Paisito".
Of course the description of the violent overthrow of a democratically elected administration by the military in South America has been shown on the big screen more than once ('Etat de Siège','Machuca','The Year my Parents Went on Vacation' [2006)]) and you will not be surprised by the fundamentals of this particular coup: a Marxist group (here the Tupamaros) which must be eradicated to "protect the country from communism" ; the Army deciding to "save the country" - and even "western civilization" - by arresting, torturing and liquidating the "enemies of the nation". But - aside from the fact that the events in Montevideo are little known - the director along with the writer, Ricardo Fernandez Blanco, manage to make the story exciting by choosing not to tackle the subject head on but from a double sideway angle: in effect,the putsch is evoked first by two adults who meet again after more than twenty years, then by the same persons when they were kids. The device enables the authors to add human complexity to the basic situation when the couple talks and to give more ambiguity when the children go through the facts without figuring out exactly what is going on around them.
As a result, "Paisito" remains intriguing throughout and even if a few details leave to be desired (Pablo Arnoletti, who plays Xavi as a child, is rather stiff and awkward; Emilio Gutierrez Caba, who plays his father, looks too old for the role; part of the dialog exchanged by Maria Botto as Rosana adult and Nicolas Pauls as Xavi adult, sounds a bit too literary to ring true), the movie as a whole is very convincing and features at least two above par interpretations, Mauricio Dayub as the captain of police, a man of good will caught in the cobweb of the coup and an unidentified actor as the colonel,a brute whose joviality hardly conceals cold ruthlessness.
Informative and well-made, 'Paisito' deserves to be seen by all, from teen to old age.
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