Eduardo Jakubowicz and Laura Radetich, Buenos Aires: La Crujía Ediciones, 2006. ISBN 987-601-015-8 Paper 209 pp. $30.00
Potential readers should know that Eduardo Jakubowicz and Laura Radetich’s La historia argentina a través del cine: Las “visiones del pasado” (1933-2003) [The History of Argentina through Cinema: Visions of the Past (1933-2003)]1 will be inaccessible to anyone possessed of less than an educated-native level of Spanish proficiency. Further, the authors assume a more than passing acquaintance with the grand events, movements, and personalities of Argentinean history since 1933. (Having seen “Evita” or taken a Latin American history course in college will not suffice.) Finally, their argument demands broad familiarity with scores of Argentinean films produced during the period examined. Most of the films they cover receive only passing mention, single-sentence thematic summaries, with nary a synopsis in sight. This book will be a frustrating read for all but a few specialists.
Even then, frustrations will mount: “En este momento,” the authors assert in a tone somewhat reminiscent of Barthes or Benjamin, “debemos pensar en la posibilidad de que gran parte de las evidencias históricas del siglo XX sólo las podemos encontrar en imágenes” [“We now need to consider the possibility that much of the historical evidence for the twentieth century will be found only in images”] (17). Inexplicably, despite this debatable pronouncement (print, real or virtual, does not seem to be in decline), Jakubowicz and Radetich include no screen grabs or images of any kind to prompt memories, to illustrate points. [End Page 66]
“La historia es un reflejo del pasado,” the authors argue, “pero en el cine este reflejo o este ‘espejo’ puede distorsionar, dislocar, condenser, simbolizar y calificar aquello que es representado” [“History is a reflection of the past, but in cinema, this reflection—this ‘mirror’—can distort, dislocate, condense, symbolize, and qualify that which is represented”] (19). While recognizing that any film can be used as a historical source or as testimony of an era, Jakubowicz and Radetich select those films that “‘intencionalmente’ abordan el ‘pasado’ o tienen como pretensión ‘hacer historia’” [“‘intentionally’ address the ‘past’ or exhibit pretensions of ‘making history’”] (24). These introductory remarks aside, what follows are six chapters divided by the fits and starts of Argentina’s history. A familiar pattern obtains as the authors provide two or three pages of political history, a page or two of contemporaneous cinematic developments, and what amounts to extended lists of films that highlight given events or political climates cited in the history. A summary of the first chapter, covering the 1930s, suggests the flavor of the whole:
On 6 September 1930, General José Félix Uriburu assumed the presidency of Argentina after staging a coup that toppled incumbent Hipólito Yrigoyen. Nationalists, who hoped to restore the oligarchic regime that had managed the country since 1916, supported the general. The Great Depression, however, had stripped Argentina of its European export markets. Uriburu was soon replaced by Agustín Pedro Justo, who was widely suspected of electoral fraud. Justo instituted policies that favored the elite and preserved the status quo. Ricardo [sic] Ortiz succeeded him in 1938, relinquishing power in 1942 due to poor health. All true and accurate, if disconnected. Jakubowicz and Radetich provide no further context, intra- or international, no indication of how forces great and small contributed to Argentina’s development, to the emergence of this political leader or ideology over that one. Yrigoyen, for example, an advocate for the working class, was extremely popular, being twice elected to the presidency. Ill health and age (he was 76 upon assuming office the second time) likely undermined his performance as much as discontent among the nation’s elite. Uriburu, by the same token, implemented several reforms to right the nation’s economy and—remarkably for one who began his career with a coup—kept his promise to step down once the citizens of Argentina had chosen a successor. He died in Paris shortly thereafter from stomach cancer.
Meanwhile, the authors...