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Tupamaros

Everything you ever wanted to know about Uruguay's revolutionaries, the Tupamaros, told from their own point of view, can be found in this gentle, humorous German-Swiss docu. Focusing on guerrilla leader Pepe Mujica, now a member of his country's parliament, pic describes the group's passage from urban guerrilla warfare under Uruguay's dictatorship to its current legal status as a political party. Pic's strong human elements and anecdotal style make it quite watchable, and it should find fairly wide TV and fest audiences. Docu quickly sets a tone of ironic nostalgia as it visits the Swiss Gun Club in Uruguay, which some young guerrillas raided back in 1963, at the height of the movement, when its active members numbered 10,000. Today, we find them gray-haired but unbowed. Using Castro's revolution in Cuba as their model, they "showed that fighting can pay." At the same time, they stress that their acts of violence, like the execution of a famous torturer, were carefully weighed.

Filmmakers Rainer Hoffmann and Heidi Specogna interview a core group that includes Mujica, who survived 13 years of prison, and his companion, Lucia Topolansky, who also went to jail and is now a vice councilor in the Montevideo mayor’s office. Growing flowers on a farm for a living (because cows are too demanding when politics press), the couple is down-to-earth and likable. Pic’s admiring assessment of Mujica is well summed up in the concluding scenes, which contrast him, arriving in parliament in blue jeans on an old Yamaha motorbike, with all the other congressmen, in their suits and limos.

Docu’s one unforgettable moment is when it shows Mujica and an old prison buddy looking for the site of their former cell. The prison has since been transformed into a shopping mall, and they locate it behind the perfume counter.

Tupamaros

German-Swiss

Production: A Specogna Film Prod., Tag/Traum (Germany)/Biograph Film (Switzerland) production, in association with ZDF, Arte. (International sales: Ventura Film, Berlin). Produced by Heidi Specogna. Co-producers, Gerd Haag, Norbert Wiedmer. Directed, written by Heidi Specogna, Rainer Hoffmann.

Crew: Camera (color), Hoffmann; editor, Doerte Voelz-Mammarella; music, Hans Koch; sound, Ulla Koesterke. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 17, 1997. Running time: 96 MIN.

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