Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Mapping the Land of 'I-don't remember': For a Re-evaluation of La historia oficial

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2004), 81, (2), 215–228.

Abstract

The 1985 film La historia oficial has been read by many critics as an exercise in smallscale melodrama, a limited and reductive gloss on the atrocities of the dictatorship that gripped Argentina between 1977 and 1983. In this article, I re-situate the film within the historical and cultural context of post-junta society, drawing on theories of trauma, memory and guilt to show that it is, rather, an acute, equivocal meditation on collective responsibility which foresees and foretells the judicial controversies of the 1980s, as well as the recent wrangling over kidnapped children. La historia oficial, I argue, plays on the referential instability of the trope desaparecido; and the clear-cut 'black and white' morality that the film seems superficially to espouse fades, on close analysis, to cloudiness, to 'grey'.

La película La historia oficial (1985) ha sido leída por muchos críticos como un ejercicio en tono de melodrama que reduce a escala personal y limitante las atrocidades del así llamado Proceso al que se sometió a la Argentina entre 1976 y 1983. En este artículo, re-ubico la película en el contexto histórico y cultural de la sociedad post-dictadura, apoyándome en teorías del trauma, de la memoria y de la culpabilidad para mostrar que es, por el contrario, una meditación aguda y a la vez ambigua sobre la responsabilidad colectiva y que anticipa tanto las controversias judiciales de los años 80 como las agitadas disputas más recientes alrededor de los niños secuestrados. Aquí sostengo que La historia oficial explota la inestabilidad referencial del tropo desaparecido; y sobre esa base, la moralidad aparentemente simple, en términos de blanco o negro, que la película pareciera promulgar, se transforma, bajo escrutinio, en algo nebuloso, gris.

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Tomlinson, Emily