Friday, April 17, 2015
Forgotten (orig. Olvidados) 
Cinema without Borders interview with Carla Ortíz
El Diario de Bolivia editorial*
CNN Español entrevista con Carla Ortíz
LA Times (M. Ordoña) article about 2014 Best Foreign Film Standouts
CinemasCine.net (M.M. Caballero) review*
CinEncuentro.net (M.C. Molina) review*
El Mostrador.cl (EFE) review*
La-Razon.com (P. Susz K.) review*
NotiCine.net (C. Moure) review*
Opinion.com.bo (G. Cornejo Bascopé) review*
PaginaSiete.bo (A. Echalar Ascarrunz) review*
TragaCine.net (A.G. Dagron) review*
The Hollywood Reporter (J. Holland) review
Forgotten (orig. Olvidados)  [IMDb] [FAes]* (directed by Carlos Bolado [IMDb] [FAes]* [SC]*, screenplay by Marizio D'Avis [IMDb], Carla Ortiz [IMDb] [FAes]*[SC]* and Elia Petridis [IMDb]) is an _unforgettable_ BOLIVIAN Cold War (1970s-80s) Era historical drama about "Operation Condor" [es.wikip]* [en.wikip] in South America.
Operation Condor" [es.wikip]* [en.wikip] was a clandestine multinational "black op" that involved the cooperation of the militaries / intelligence services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraquay and Uruguay with the assistance and arguably supervision of the United States. The infamous School of the Americas [en.wikip] [SOA-Watch] provided much of the "counter insurgency training" and the CIA then "helped with direction" ... The operation was responsible for the "disappearance" (capture/abduction, detention, torture and finally murder/disposal) of 10,000s of Leftists (and often those _merely suspected of being leftists_) in those countries. While difficult to say, AS MANY AS 60,000, MOSTLY YOUNG, PEOPLE WERE CAPTURED, TORTURED, KILLED AND DISPOSED-OF IN THIS ANTI-COMMUNIST, "COUNTER INSURGENCY" OPERATION.
Needless to say this was one heck of subject matter for a movie. And interestingly enough the film was Bolivia's submission to the 2014 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. It played recently at the 2015 -- 31st Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival, with both Mexican director Carlos Bolado [IMDb] [FAes]* [SC]* and Bolivian actress-producer of the film Carla Ortiz [IMDb] [FAes]*[SC]* present after the two screenings to take questions and answers.
[Two years ago at the 2013 - 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival, I saw director Bolado's [IMDb] [FAes]* [SC]* previous film, the also excellent, Tlatelolco, Summer of 68 (orig. Tlatelolco, Verano del 68)  about the largely forgotten Tienanmen Square style massacre of at least 300 and possibly THOUSANDS of Mexican students that occurred in Mexico City three weeks before the start of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games that were held there that year. He was present at that screening as well].
At the Q&A following the current film, I asked the two what was the Academy's reaction to this film. After all, while Hollywood often has a "left leaning reputation," in my reviews of the Academy Awards  I have consistently maintained that the Academy is generally or even _supremely_ "middle of the road." So in my question I expressed my concern that while some in Hollywood would perhaps like the film, [many (!)] others would be absolutely terrified of it.
Carla Ortiz [IMDb] [FAes]*[SC]* responded that actually the film got a good reception, earning earning some interviews / buzz (interviews above) as well as making "the short list - top 10" among the films for the Best Foreign Language Film award. However, it clearly didn't make the top five, which she attributed to her film's humble origins. It's conventional wisdom these days that to win an Oscar requires organizing/financing a fairly large campaign for it.
Perhaps. But with the exception of people like Oliver Stone [wikip] [IMDb] or perhaps Miloš Forman [wikip] [IMDb] (though Forman actually came/fled from a country (my parents' country...) that was brutalized by "the other side," the Communists, during the Cold War), or perhaps Angelina Jolie [wikip] [IMDb], it's difficult to imagine many in Hollywood having the stomach for a film like this. Let me put it this way: THIS FILM WOULD BE THE 1970s-80s ERA ABSOLUTE COUNTER POINT TO A FILM LIKE AMERICAN SNIPER  -- giving the stories of / HUMANIZING the nameless people who someone like Navy SEAL Sgt. Kyle would be blowing the heads off of.
So what then of the film? FIRST, THIS IS AN EXCELLENT FILM. It would "rock the world" of a lot of (North) American / Western viewers, who would find it difficult to imagine that these kind of things could happen arguably in our name. But it is excellent, with well-developed characters covering the vast expanse of the story.
The story is built around two characters, father and son, Bolivian, the father being (today) a retired highly decorated Bolivian General named José Mendieta (played in the film throughout by Damián Alcázar [IMDb] [FAes]* [SC]*) and his now 30-something son Pablo (played by Bernardo Peña [IMDb] [FAes]*) now living / working as a banker in New York with a (North) American wife and young son.
Pablo was literally born in the midst of the trauma / chaos of those years in southern South America. As Pablo grew-up, he apparently DIDN'T ASK any questions, and his father then COLONEL José Mendieta, in as much as he'd be around at all during those years, certainly DIDN'T TELL him (or ANYBODY ELSE outside of his chain of command) much either. BUT now retired EVER RESPECTED, HIGHLY DECORATED General José Mendieta WAS DYING and HE NEEDED TO GET SOME THINGS OFF OF HIS CHEST.
So ... he asks Pablo to come home. AND IN CASE PABLO DIDN'T MAKE IT HOME IN TIME ... HE STARTS WRITING HIS CONFESSION DOWN ...
What did he need to tell his son, NOW ...? Well that's of course the rest of the story.
It begins in the mid-1970s with promising Bolivian officer José Mendieta along with many others of his similar "promise" / mid-level rank having been sent to the U.S. Army Special Forces run School of the Americas [en.wikip] [SOA-Watch] then located "offshore" in Panama for "counter insurgency training."
There, these young, again _promising_ "best of the best" officers from throughout Latin America were trained in the "tactics" of this "new kind of war" -- coming-in QUICKLY and with OVERWHELMING FORCE, kicking down the doors of suspected leftists, urban guerrillas (today, we'd call them terrorists), "DISAPPEARING THEM" (ABDUCTING them / taking them to some DISORIENTINGLY FAR/STRANGE/PERHAPS EVEN FOREIGN "UNDISCLOSED LOCATION"), TORTURING THEM and EVENTUALLY DISPOSING OF THEM (Readers here would find these tactics STRIKINGLY SIMILAR to the tactics used by the U.S. Military / Intelligence services in the early years of the post-9/11 War on Terror ... Indeed, the U.S. PATRIOT ACT sought to provide a U.S. legal framework to allow, if need be, for terrorist _suspects_ to be EFFECTIVELY DISAPPEARED even from here in the United States...)
There, at the School of the Americas, these "bright young officers FROM ALL OVER Latin America," ALSO "NETWORKED," MADE LONG-TERM, EVEN LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIPS, after all this was going to be a CONTINENTAL BATTLE AGAINST COMMUNISM and WHY NOT bring the "young, best and the brightest" together from among the militaries involved and HELP THEM TO BECOME _FRIENDS_.
And so it was, good ole Bolivian officer José Morieta met and became very close friends with Argentinian officer Sanera (played by Rafael Ferro [IMDb] [FAes]*) and the COLONELS then PROPOSE TO THEIR RESPECTIVE "HIGHER UP" (THE GENERALS) from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay even Uruguay setting-up a central clandestine interrogation / detention center high-up in the mountains of ... BOLIVIA ... to which then abducted / "disappeared" leftists / suspected leftists FROM ALL OVER SOUTHERN LATIN AMERICA were taken ... and interrogated / tortured.
Imagine how disorienting it would have been for someone from MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY or RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, or VALPARAISO, CHILE or BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA to be abducted and then sometime later finding oneself jailed SOMEWHERE in the middle of the F-ING MOUNTAINS, with ALL KINDS OF ACCENTS SPOKEN BY THE INTERROGATING OFFICERS with the GUARDS LOOKING LIKE MORE-OR-LESS LIKE INCAS... WITH UTTER HORROR REALIZING that NO ONE BACK HOME WOULD HAVE A CLUE WHERE THEY WERE. NONE. ZERO. NADA.
Now to the film's credit, the film DOES SHOW that the THERE REALLY WAS A COORDINATED MULTINATIONAL LEFT-WING INSURGENCY TAKING PLACE IN SOUTHERN LATIN AMERICA AT THE TIME.
One of the characters, Marco (played by Carlotto Cotta [IMDb] [FAes]*), a young, idealistic Brazilian born journalist writing for France's Le Monde newspaper, with a young, PREGNANT Bolivian wife Lucia (Carla Ortiz [IMDb] [FAes]*[SC]*), is shown talking to friends in Argentina or perhaps Chile in quite excited 20-something fashion that HE THOUGHT that the various nominally independent left-wing urban-guerrilla groups throughout much of Latin America are working IN COORDINATED FASHION.
Well of course, his friends, or at least some of them, turn out to be on the radar of one or another of the countries involved, and so the security forces (of be it Argentina or Chile) kick down the doors one evening in the midst of a party and ABDUCT THE LOT OF THEM, including MARCO and his PREGNANT WIFE LUCIA ... and sometime later, they all find themselves in this dank, high Andean Bolivian prison, filled WITH SCREAMS and PEOPLE (both interrogators and prisoners) FROM ALL OVER SOUTHERN LATIN AMERICA.
There, the new prisoners are told by the more seasoned (and MORE MILITANT COMMUNIST...) ones NOT TO TELL ANYBODY ANYTHING. (Most of course HAVE NOTHING REALLY TO TELL ...).
Why? Why not tell the interrogators that they have NOTHING to TELL? Well they're told by the more hardened / militant prisoners: "You're at the end of the line here. The ONLY THING that will keep you alive is the belief on the part of your torturers that you still have something more to tell them. As soon as they are convinced that they have nothing (more) to get out of you, you'll get a bullet in your head and that will be that."
Well pregnant Lucia there actually takes to task one of the more fanatical Argentinian (Communist) prisoners named Andrea (played by Ana Calentano [IMDb] [FAes]*): "Well, I have NOTHING to tell them, MY HUSBAND HAS NOTHING TO TELL THEM. We're here ONLY BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU." "You're NOT HERE BECAUSE OF 'PEOPLE LIKE ME,' YOU'RE HERE BECAUSE YOU LIVE IN A DICTATORSHIP." "But we could vote, everything WAS FINE until YOU WITH YOUR ARROGANT IDEOLOGY started BLOWING EVERYTHING UP." "BUT how LONG WERE YOU WILLING TO WAIT BEFORE a true democracy would ever emerge? DON'T YOU SEE THAT _SOME OF US WERE TIRED_ OF HAVING _EVERYTHING_ DECIDED BY THE SAME SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE ALL THE TIME." "BUT YOU WERE A TINY GROUP OF PEOPLE AS WELL ..." "BUT WITH OUR CAMPAIGN, AND THE DICTATORSHIP'S REACTION TO IT, WE WERE ABLE TO EXPOSE THE LIES UNDERLINING THE WHOLE PRESENT SYSTEM." "But will PEOPLE LIKE ME and MY HUSBAND, INNOCENTS after all, EVER GET OUT (to see ANYTHING of what MIGHT change ...)."
I freely admit that if I were locked-up in an Andean dungeon like this where these people were locked-up, often SCREAMING while being BEING TORTURED, WITH NO HOPE OF EVER LEAVING ALIVE, _I'D_ be looking to hang myself (and I'm a Catholic Priest). THIS WAS A LIVING INCARNATION OF HELL.
As many as 60,000 people across Southern Latin America DIED in places like this ... almost NONE of their bodies ever recovered.
In the Q/A the director actually noted the he could have easily made the film EVEN DARKER than it was. After all, the script was based on hair-raising documentation, often from Amnesty International, from that time.
This was ONE HECK OF A FILM. But one that honestly deserves, indeed SCREAMS even HOWLS, to be seen.
* Decent enough (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.
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