Lyor Zylberman

By Laura Cossette

Lyor Zylberman is an expert in the relationship between image and memory. Specifically, he focuses on cinema and the dictatorship in Argentina. He is also part of a film magazine, and he continues studying image and sound at the University of Buenos Aires. The reason he became interested in this topic is his own family background; Zylberman’s grandparents are survivors of the Holocaust, which led to his strong affinity to the concept of, what he considers the genocide, in Argentina. Calling what happened in Argentina during the dictatorship in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s a genocide is very controversial, however Zylberman stands by his point of view and argued for it with eloquence. In Zylberman’s opinion, genocide is anything that transforms social relationships or society as a whole through the use of extermination. He then continued to explain his reasons why he considers what happened in Argentina a genocide. A summary of his reasons are that the guerrillas were exterminated, people stopped participating in politics, and, economically, the industrial base/complex that existed in Argentina was destroyed. All of these were significant changes that occurred as a result of the exterminations carried out by the state. 

Ex Centro Clandestino de Detención, Tortura y Exterminio ‘Olimpo’
Photo by T.C.T
After this explanation he continued on to speak more about the relationship between film and the genocide in Argentina.The role of film in the preservation, and also creation, of memory is indescribably important. This is especially true in the case of the genocide in Argentina because there were no visuals of what occurred in the detention centers, as Zylberman explains. Zylberman points out that, unlike the Holocaust, no pictures were ever taken of the detention centers when they were functioning. Therefore, films play a monumental role in understanding how the concentration camps, as he referred to them, functioned. One interesting insight that Zylberman offered was that of the approximately 600 films made about the dictatorship, none were about Videla. He compares this to the hundreds of movies that have been made about Hitler, but does not offer any possible answer to why there is this substantial difference in Argentinean film history. One of the last significant pieces of information he provided is the progression of themes of the films. He states that in the 1980s the majority of the films made about the dictatorship were about good people vs. evil people. Secondly, it was cinema of impunity in the ‘90s. Lastly, in 2002 to the present, films shifted to the theme of memory. Overall, Zylberman offered us intriguing and unique insights into not only the relationship between film and the genocide, but also about the dictatorship in general.

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