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Argentina's Dirty War and the regime of the Generals from 1976 to 1983 is one of the dark secrets of history and has been examined by poets, writers such as Colm Toibin (and here, Lawrence Thornton in his novel from which the film was adapted), and journalists. And yet the silence about this period of time is deafening, especially since the amnesty this past June releasing the perpetrators from all responsibility of this terrifying activity and time in Argentina. Now, with the current 'silencing' of our own covert CIA activities and tortures in the name of a fight against terrorism, this overlooked film takes on particular potency. And for whatever reasons the film doesn't succeed as a great movie, at least it is a red flag bravely waving.
In 1976 the intellects, professors, journalists and writers began disappearing, kidnapped, taken to secret hideaways, tortured, raped, and disposed of all in the guise of protecting the viability of the military regime. Carlos (Antonio Banderas) runs a children's theater and is married to Cecilia (Emma Thompson) who writes articles about the "desaparecidos" despite the warnings from Carlos and their close friends Silvio (Rubén Blades) and Esme (Maria Canals). Their daughter Teresa (Leticia Dolera) is a young girl who is conflicted about the feelings of her parents in this scandalized government. Cecilia is abducted, becomes one of the dreaded desaparecidos, and Carlos commits himself to finding her. He discovers he has clairvoyant powers and holds meetings in his garden to help parents and loved ones of the desaparecidos to cope. Working with Teresa he tries to envision Cecilia's whereabouts and the film's dénouement and conclusion deal with this breathless seeking.
The acting if good as expected from this cast. The direction is fast paced, but the problem is one of distance from the passion of Carlos. For some reason Banderas elected to keep such a low profiles that his desperation to find Cecilia is somewhat muted. But as stated above the real success of this fine little film is the message it carries and that message is too close to home to ignore. The musical score and cinematography (and the incidental wonderful Tango dancing) are superb. Recommended. Grady Harp
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