The most complexly structured of this year’s Argentine films, “The Blonds” treads a delicate line between documentary and fiction to reconstruct the kidnapping and murder of director Albertina Carri’s parents during the military dictatorship. Flanked by a number of new docs on the subject of the desparecidos (the “disappeared”), “Blonds” is by far the most innovative and successful in bringing the horrors of the period to the present, by analyzing the way memory and identity are constructed. Its experimental techniques will keep some auds at a distance, but should be appreciated by festivals. Pic won a number of prizes at the recent Buenos Aires film fest, including audience award and best new Argentine feature nod.
Mixing the personal feel of Carri’s feature bow “I Don’t Want to Go Home” and the studied eccentricity of her short “Barbie Can Be Sad, Too”, which was narrated entirely with dolls, “The Blonds” ambitiously attempts to find a fresh approach to a subject that still opens emotional wounds in Argentina. Pic begins with a film crew investigating the 1977 disappearance of political militants Ana Maria Caruso and Roberto Carri by interviewing residents of the neighborhood they lived in at the time they were abducted. Strikingly, the neighbors find little to say about the family, which included three small daughters (Albertina was 4 years old), and less to criticize about their deaths.
At the same time, model toys are employed in other scenes to represent transparent fantasies about happy family life — until a plastic spaceship swoops down and whisks away the parent figures. Although Carri herself is glimpsed in the film, her “role” as filmmaker/bereaved daughter is doubled by young thesp Analia Couceyro. This somewhat defuses the film’s emotional charge, while at the same time underlining how difficult it is to construct an identity for oneself in the absence of such basic figures as a mother and father.
But generally the pic avoids the danger of letting its formal concerns overpower its emotional ones. Camerawork is personal and eclectic, while office decor is dominated by a poster of John Water’s “Cecil B. DeMented” showing Melanie Griffith tied to a chair and gagged. Poster takes on ominous meaning when the talk turns to how prisoners were tortured.
Gagging also refers to pic’s criticism of Argentina’s new state film financing system, which recently became entirely based on film scripts. The film crew at one point peruses a letter from the agency refusing “The Blonds” financing, claiming the gravity of the subject warrants “a more rigorous documentary approach.”