Cinergía Movie File:
La Historia Oficial
Cristina Molano-Wendt, Amy Bianchi, Shannon Tierny, and Brian Sabella
Scroll down or Click on any section to jump ahead:
Section 1: Pre-screening
Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism
Section 3: Media analysis
Section 1: Pre Screening
Note: Given the transitory nature of internet resources we suggest conducting a search to help answer the pre-screening questions. Only a few links are included below.
of the Movie
English. This website is useful to get a feel for the story in “La
Historia Oficial.” It provides a
brief synopsis of the movie, introducing character names and plot.
There is a short commentary on the meaning of the movie, and historical
In English. This website provides information about the “desaparecidos,” their histories, government information, and investigations that have gone on since the overthrow of the dictatorship in Argentina. Links are offered regarding further reading on the subject and to various human rights organizations.
Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
In Spanish. This is the official site of the “Asociación de Madres de Plaza de Mayo,” the peaceful protest group of mothers of vanished children in Argentina. The site has links to websites filled with poems in reaction to the tragedy, background history, events sponsored by the “Madres,” and their publications.
Las abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo
In Spanish. This is the official website of the “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo,” a group similar to the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo.” It lists current events sponsored by the “Abuelas,” a history of the group, and links to children’s rights organizations. There is also a link to translate the site into English.
In Spanish. This website gives information as to the “true” history behind the “desaparecidos.” It provides information about the “CONADEP,” (National commission of disappeared persons), including board members, and the purpose of the organization.
Argentina en Patria Grande
Spanish by Hector Velarde. This
website covers Argentine culture and history through articles and biographies
written by actual Argentineans, including poets and statesmen.
La historia oficial en IMDB
In English. Website with many movie reviews and other info.
1) Who was Juan Domingo Perón?
2) When did the military rule begin in Argentina, and how long did it last?
What is a “desaparecido?”
4) What is the capital city of Argentina?
5) What is the significance of the group called “las Madres de la Plaza de mayo?”
Who was the director of the movie “La Historia Oficial?” Did he/she make any other movies?
7) Who was in power in Argentina when “La Historia Oficial” took place?
Why were “desaparecidos” taken from their homes?
In what year was “La Historia Oficial” directed?
What is the significance of the title “La Historia Oficial (the
2: Film Comprehension and Criticism
2. What time frame is the film set in? Why is this significant?
What is Alicia’s profession? What
is the significance of this?
4. What type of demeanor does she have as a teacher at the beginning of the movie? At the end?
What type of classroom does Benítez (Alicia’s male colleague) lead?
6. What happened to Ana (Alicia’s friend)? How does her story affect Alicia?
Why do the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo protest?
8. Why don’t Alicia and Roberto like celebrating Gaby’s birthday?
9. Why, do you think, does it take Alicia so many years to question how Gaby was adopted? Does she want to know the truth?
10. What are Roberto’s underlying concerns throughout the movie? What does he care about?
11. Is Gaby a happy child? Why is she scared at her birthday party?
What is the official story? Is it the same as the true story?
What happens at the end of the story?
14. Are there similarities between Gaby’s and Alicia’s life? What are they?
What is the significance of Gaby’s song at the end?
The following quotes come from Mark D. Szuchman
“Depicting the Past in Argentine Films: Family Drama and Historical Debate in Miss
Mary and The Official Story ” in Donald F. Stevens ed. Based
on a True Story: Latin American
History at the Movies. Wilmington,
Delaware: pp. 173-200.
“Much in the same way as the lead actress’s
hair unravels over the course of the film (in contrast to the tightly controlled
bun she wears at the start), the official history of events in the Argentina of
military governments unravels at the end, loosened from the weight of fear and
political naïveté” (Szuchman
“Failure to fit always carries a price, as
shown in the case of the slightly effeminate Martin Cullen.
His stylized response to the teacher’s calling of his name generates
the predictable jeers by the rest of the boys.
We see the pranksterism of the students, which over time melds into the
intolerance of a wide spectrum of Argentine society, ill disposed toward
deviants of any sort, including, ultimately, the protesting Mothers of the Plaza
de Mayo” (Szuchman 192).
“More than any other single factor for
indecision was the high level of uncertainty over received truths that
Argentines had taken for granted. This
skepticism was captured on film in the unconvinced expressions of the students
when Profesora Marnet de Ibañez intones the clichés about history as a key to
understanding the world” (Szuchman
“Ibañez works for an important company of
financial consultants that has at its disposal easy contacts with the military,
both retired and on active duty. The
film depicts a common practice during the era of military governments, whereby
high-ranking military officers were recruited into private-sector firms
immediately upon their retirement from the services” (Szuchman 194).
“How was it possible that Alicia and her
peers remained impervious for so many years to alternative interpretations of
the official storytellers’ tales? In
the context of the movie’s temporal setting of March 1983, Alicia would have
had several years during which to evaluate the domestic and international
dimensions of Argentina’s political environment. Yet she arrives at the start of her saga with a Lockeian
tabula rasa that remains an unconvincing and elusive facet of Argentine
history” (Szuchman 196).
1. How has the film changed or added to your understanding of the recent history of Argentina?
2. Was the film directed very long after the truth about the past began to be revealed? How might this have affected the historical accuracy of the film?
What types of people were portrayed as having been victimized by the
government? In reality, what types
of people were singled out?
How quickly did Alicia find the possible grandmother of Gaby?
How many actual mothers and grandmothers of desaparecidos have found
their loved ones?
Alicia finds it difficult/dangerous to speak out or question “the
official story.” Was there
freedom of speech in Argentina when the movie takes place?
6. What do you think was Luis Puenzo’s reason for creating this film?
7. How does the film portray the government? The general population? The desaparecidos, other victims, and their families?
How does the film portray females such as Alicia, Ana, and the Mothers of
the Plaza de Mayo?
Are there any solid answers given in the movie to the problems the
characters face? Are there black
and white answers to the problems in the Argentina of the past and today?
Would you use this movie to teach about the historical period covered?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using this movie?
3: Media analysis
this still the most important thing to see is the expressions on their faces.
With Ana, her eyes are closed and she is crying while Alicia is behind
her. This is a symbol of how
Alicia is behind the truth of the situation and does not know what is right in
front of her face. Alicia has an
expression of terror, but at the same time she is thinking.
This still has a depth of field because it is necessary to see both women
and understand the irony of the situation. Also, there is fill lighting over Alicia’s face; she will
not be “in the dark” anymore. The
camera is angled at a close up because this shot is critical to the film.
It shows for the first time that Alicia does not know the cruelty that
exists in her own home.
lets her hair down
These stills give the viewer visual clues to the transformation of Alicia’s character. As she lets her hair down, she also acquires her voice and her independence. While learning the truth ahs been hard for her, knowledge has also been liberating. The closed frame of the shot helps to focus on the transforming character of Alicia. Her smiles and gestures indicate her spirit and passion. The chiaroscuro lighting suggests that her happiness will be short lived and learning the truth will also be painful.
Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
this still the shadows behind the banner are a symbol for the missing persons.
They show the audience that Argentina does not know what is happening.
All of the mothers are wearing the color white, which symbolizes
innocence. The deep focus de-emphasizes the individuals and focuses on the way
that the women represent all of the families of Argentina that have been
traumatized. The light is natural because they are outside.
The placards and posters are more predominant than the actual people,
demonstrating that the disappeared remain large in family memory. The struggle to find out what happened to these people is
also larger than the people conducting the struggle itself. The camera is at a
point of view shot, taken as Alicia watches the demonstration. Her perspective
contrasts with what she sees. Her
view is from the side of denial and the mothers represent the side of activism.
In this still you can’t see Gabi’s face. This is a symbol of her missing identity. The girl sits in the dark with only a little natural light. We can see her arm and again we see the color white. This still is a symbol that Gabi is a victim of a cruel crime. She is alone, which symbolizes that even with the help of Alicia and her grandmother she will always bear the trauma of these events alone. The rocking chair also represents her stolen childhood and her stolen parents. The darkness and shadows that fall across her body and the rest of the frame represent the dark reality of what happened in Argentina during the Dirty War. The way the shadows spill over everything suggests that all will be affected by what happened.
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Created on 4/10/01
Last updated on 09/03/2007