I’m in a bit of a state of shock to be honest. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect this to be quite as matter-of-fact as it is. Anyway, it’s great. My only qualm is that it’s clearly Uruguay, but for financial backer reasons everyone is speaking French. A small price to pay for the experience!

france, 1972, french


State of Siege

I was taken aback by this film, my first by Costa-Gavras. I was in the mood for a political thriller, and one from the paranoid seventies sounded great. That’s not what this is at all. This is not a film that wants to thrill you, or to surprise you with dramatic tension. This is a film that wants to make you feel the political reality it is describing. It wants to tell you how it is, then methodically show you how it came to be. It’s precise in its purpose.

The idea that the United States of America has done truly awful things in Latin America, as well as in many other parts of the world, isn’t news to me. I’m not an expert, but I’ve long been aware of the ways in which the CIA and other parts of the establishment conspired to help fascist dictators keep power. All while enabling, participating, and training those who overthrew elected liberal and socialist governments.

But I probably a bit atypical for an American. For one thing I grew up in a liberal marginalized minority household. For another I’m the grandson of refugees. And for a final third, I went to an extremely liberal university. So, I’m likely in the top some percent of all Americans, when it comes to awareness around these issues. And still, my information is extremely surface level. I had no idea about this particular situation in Uruguay, for example, nor anything about what happened there in the sixties and seventies.

This film, and related films like it, should be required viewing in a country that otherwise learns so little of its flaws. We are taught hagiography here, not history. There aren’t even really mainstream filmmakers doing this kind of work anymore. Certainly nothing exists at the level of the post-Watergate seventies. That’s a problem, as the only way to start dealing with the terrible things in our past is to acknowledge they happened at all.