Review: ‘Raymundo’

The life and death of Argentinean docu filmmaker Raymundo Gleyzer are chillingly recounted in Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina's "Raymundo." Pic seeks to pay tribute to Gleyzer's life and work while charting the evolution of the socialist-revolutionary filmmaking movement. The result is a long and complex, but deeply absorbing docu.

The life and untimely death of Argentinean documentary filmmaker Raymundo Gleyzer are chillingly recounted in Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina’s “Raymundo.” Pic seeks to pay tribute to Gleyzer’s life and work while simultaneously charting the evolution of the socialist-revolutionary filmmaking movement of which he was an integral component. The result is a long and complex, but deeply absorbing docu. Highly political in its content and sometimes a bit dry in its presentation, pic isn’t for all audiences, but should find a warm reception at docu festivals and on socially conscious tube outlets.

Assembled from interviews with Gleyzer’s family and colleagues, plus excerpts from Gleyzer’s personal diary (read on the soundtrack by his son, Diego), “Raymundo” uses the biographical details of the filmmaker’s life as its frame, from his birth in 1941 to his kidnapping (and slow, torturous execution) by paramilitary guerrillas in 1976.

But most remarkable are the lengthy excerpts from Gleyzer’s films (and those of his comrades from the filmmaking collective known as Cine de la Base), many of which depict the tumultuous sociopolitical upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s, not just in Argentina, but throughout Central and South America.

Having felt it was his destiny to make films of and about the people of his continent, Gleyzer’s images are richly evocative of life lived below the poverty line — of malnourished infants and ramshackle roadside dwellings. In films like “Mexico: The Frozen Revolution” and “The Traitors,” he openly risked political persecution by bringing the everyday horrors of the working class to broader attention.

And, as the idea of workers’ revolutions began to spread, from Brazil to Chile and to Argentina itself, Gleyzer was there too, vividly capturing the boiling-over of long-simmering tensions.

Ardito and Molina include a discussion of the differing political beliefs (particularly with regard to exiled Argentine President Juan Peron) that would lead to the formation of contentious sects within the once-united social-filmmaker movement. But, it is the film’s suggestion that class disparity, corrupt dictatorship and unexplained “disappearances,” continue today, and that is what makes “Raymundo” a fascinating, unsettling experience.

At more than two hours, pic has a tendency to belabor some points. But the filmmakers have done much to keep pic visually engaging, including a “Kid Stays in the Picture”-style three-dimensionalizing of archival photos and documents.

Raymundo

Argentina

Production

Produced, directed by Ernesto Ardito, Virna Molina.

Crew

Camera (color, video), Sebastian Diaz; associate producer, Juana Sapire. Reviewed on videocassette, L.A., April 16, 2003. (In Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.) Running time: 128 MIN.
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