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Clerical Complicity

A CINEMATIC VIEW

By Robert E. Lauder | January-February 1986

The opening scene of The Official Story won me over. It focuses on three loudspeakers. As the camera pulls back to reveal a quadrangle filled with singing high-school students and faculty, we hear planes flying noisily overhead. The juxtaposition of the ordered world of high school with the ominous sound of the planes sets the stage for the rest of this exceptionally well made film. The Official Story explores the conversion of Alicia from an upper-class Argentinian who is interested only in the happiness of her own family and oblivious to the injustices that surround her to a deeply caring, un­selfish woman ready to perform heroic acts of jus­tice and charity. The setting is contemporary Ar­gentina which, though now under democratic rule, is still suffering from events that took place under recent dictatorship.

Near the beginning of The Official Story we learn quickly that Alicia’s life is centered around her five-year-old adopted daughter Gaby (Analia Castro) and her husband Roberto (Hector Alterio), a very successful businessman. Alicia and Roberto, who socialize with Argentine society’s most wealthy personages, including representatives of the country’s military establishment, seem very much in love. A high-school history teacher, Alicia quickly silences any radical student comments about injustice. Her conservative appearance in hairstyle and dress mirrors her conservative atti­tude. Alicia has both adjusted to and embraced the status quo.

The break in Alicia’s outlook begins at a reunion of a small group of her college girlfriends. Her closest friend, Ana (Chunchuna Vallafañe), who had left Argentina seven years previously, is present. Later that evening while reminiscing about past times, Ana reveals that she had been arrested and tortured because of her friendship with a revo­lutionary. While telling her story, Ana makes a comment about the kidnaping of children and the selling of them for adoption.

The seed has been planted in Alicia’s mind: Is her adopted daughter unjustly hers? Was the child stolen from her real parents? Alicia begins to have serious pangs of conscience. They are intensified by a colleague at her high school who challenges her to question recent history in Argentina.

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