By Monse Sepúlveda
In 1977, Claudio Tamburrini, a 17 year old young man, was kidnapped and locked up in the detention center, “Mansion Sere.” There, Claudio meets Guillermo, “El Vasco” and “El Gallego,” three men with whom he goes through months of tortures, terror and suffering at the hands of the Argentinean military. After four months of captivity, and faced with their imminent execution, Claudio and his three cellmates decide to escape. On a rainy night and completely naked, they jump down through the window of the detention center After hiding in abandoned houses for a few hours, El Vasco decides to seek help, and manages to get in contact with the father of “El Gallego,” who drives down to meet with them, saving the lives of the three men left in the abandoned house.
This is an extremely powerful movie. The opening scene, when the military is torturing Claudio’s family for information leading to his abduction, helps us connect with the suffering of the families who saw their relatives disappear under black hoods. As Claudio is being taken away, he shouts out: “just let me tell my mother where I’m going.” This simple detail added into the movie, reveals perhaps one of the deepest scars the military regime left behind: thousands of shattered families.
The movie also conveys to the audience, in a grueling and painful way, the horrors that took place inside the detention centers and the torture methods used. Words so often reading in articles or books, such as “interrogation” or “electric rod” take fuller meaning in this film. One of the most shocking scenes, in my opinion, was when “El Tano,” another detainee, is informed that he will be “transferred” to another facility. With what sadness do we see “El Tano” offer his arm to receive a sedative that will only make it easier for the military to push him off a plane into the Rio de la Plata.
Reading and writing can only take us so far. That much I have always been sure of. And the case of the Argentinean genocide is no different. Perhaps those of us who never went through that will never understand. But that is no reason to quit trying, and this effort must take us beyond reading books and articles, for they provide but a glimpse of what it meant for thousands of people to be incarcerated in detention centers around the country. The movie “Cronica de una Fuga”, which tells the story of young men who escaped a detention center in 1977, is part of decades of effort to understand the years of the military regime, and the myriad of human experiences during these years. It shows not only shows the unlikely escape of these men, but unearths the truth of the atrocities committed by the military in the detention centers.