“Executed in Floresta” is the kind of docu that acts as a kick in the gut, forcing to the surface the human toll of half-skimmed headlines too quickly forgotten. More than simply a moving and painful look at three young men whose lives were cut down by an out-of-control cop in Buenos Aires, Diego Hernan Ceballos’ superb — and important — docu also focuses on the broader societal implications of a police force still staffed by henchmen trained under Argentina’s recent ruthless military dictatorship. Pic deserves wide fest play before hopeful pick-up by PBS and Euro cable outlets.
With the country in a state of financial collapse toward the end of 2001, civil unrest spilled onto the streets of Argentina. Watching the events on TV in a local cafe were three friends in their 20s: Adrian Matassa, Cristian Gomez and Maximiliano Tasca. When news reports showed protesters beating up a policeman, Maxi remarked that the cop deserved it.
This wasn’t merely an unthinking statement; when the repressive military dictatorship fell in 1983, the new government failed to weed out policemen schooled by the junta. Between the start of democracy and 2005, nearly 2,000 cases of “happy trigger” murders have been reported, incidents in which cops mete out their own form of unchecked justice.
When cop Juan de Dios Velaztiqui heard Maxi’s impetuous remark, he calmly pulled out a gun and shot the three friends dead. He then moved their bodies and destroyed evidence. He assumed witness Sandra Bravo would, like most people, be too cowed to ever give testimony.
Velaztiqui underestimated Bravo, not to mention the parents and the locals themselves. A nondescript working-class community in Buenos Aires, Floresta had never been a hotbed of political activism, but the shock of losing three of their own galvanized the neighborhood into action.
A spontaneous, peaceful demonstration began that was continued every Saturday for more than 20weeks.
By the time Velaztiqui’s trial started in February 2003, the parents and Bravo were frequent targets of death threats, but they and the community held firm.
Unusually, justice prevailed and Velaztiqui was sent up the river for life.
Helmer Ceballos presents the story from the p.o.v. of the three youths’ parents, previously apolitical citizens now plunged into grief. What makes the docu so moving is their extraordinarily articulate testimony, and the heart-breaking way they bring their sons to life again through stories and photos. Rather than mere statistics, Adrian, Cristian and Maxi emerge from the headlines, so by the end, viewers feel they know them.
Skillfully edited interviews are intercut with news footage showing the history of Argentina’s problems with an unbridled police force. . The post-punk sounds of a Spanish version of the Clash provide suitable musical accompaniment to the disturbing news clips.