Hidden in Plain Sight

"Hidden in Plain Sight" is a relentless excoriation of the School of the Americas, a prime instrument by which the U.S. exercised its will in Latin America until activists forced its shutdown in 2000 -- although the disgraced center, which produced hundreds of documented, sometimes indicted, war criminals, almost immediately reopened under a new, harder-to-chant name.

With:
With: Father Roy Bourgeois, Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens, Eduardo Galeano, Sandra Alvarez, Rep. Barbara Lee, Sister Dianna Ortiz. Narrator, Martin Sheen. (English and Spanish dialogue.)

“Hidden in Plain Sight” is a relentless excoriation of the School of the Americas, a prime instrument by which the U.S. exercised its will in Latin America until activists forced its shutdown in 2000 — although the disgraced center, which produced hundreds of documented, sometimes indicted, war criminals, almost immediately reopened under a new, harder-to-chant name. John Ashcroft and company won’t like it, but this will get some pubcasting attention and a lot of sell-through action in alternative circles.

Critic Christopher Hitchens provided the title for this docu about the “school of assassins,” and on camera he ponders the lack of Yankee outrage to have such a charnel house in its midst. Apologists from both parties and former and present Army bigwigs make feeble cases for the school as a beacon of democracy, but observers ranging from Noam Chomsky to American nun Dianna Ortiz, who was raped and tortured in Guatemala with an American observer in the room, attest otherwise.

Standout figure is Father Roy Bourgeois, a Vietnam vet-turned-priest who served four years in prison for his persistence in alerting the country to the school’s core mission, to teach repression to regimes protecting their own behinds while making their nations safe for U.S. corporations. There are also strong words from Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who says of Washington: “They are the owners of a circus and we are the clowns. And if we don’t make them laugh, the clowns get punished.” Martin Sheen narrates, very sparsely, while disturbing pictures often speak themselves. One particularly dark passage, from a decade ago, shows then-president George Bush sniggering at a Catholic protester calling for the SOA’s closure.

Well-edited pic faces competition from a few other docus on the same subject, so updating with post-Iraq status would be helpful.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Production: A Raven's Call Prods. (Berkeley, Calif.) production. Produced by Vivi Letsou, John H. Smihula. Co-producer, Andres Thomas Conteris. Directed, written by John H. Smihula.

Crew: Camera (color, Beta SP-NTSC), Chip Holley; editor, Andrea Zondler; music, Luis Peres; sound designer, Jim LeBrecht; associate producers, Andrea Zondler, Susan Jane. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 8, 2003. Running time: 71 MIN.

With: With: Father Roy Bourgeois, Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens, Eduardo Galeano, Sandra Alvarez, Rep. Barbara Lee, Sister Dianna Ortiz. Narrator, Martin Sheen. (English and Spanish dialogue.)

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