QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM VENICE
This is a film that’s both striking and necessary. A 12-Year Night is based on a true story, taken from Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernadez Huidobro’s memoirs Memorias del Calabozo. The narrative is built around the 4,323 days when three leftwing urban guerrilla members (Tupamaros) lived in confinement in Uruguayan prisons. This is a superb visual story about persistence and resistance. The script adaptation is both surprising an captivating.
Some people might assume that A 12-Year Night is a conventional political drama about a small South American country with which few people are familiar. They are wrong. This is a deeply sensory experience. You will feel every emotion as if you were one of the film characters. You will get goosebumps, profound emotions, and feel plenty of revolt and indignation. You will also learn a lot about the military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay from 1973 to 1985.
Helmer and scribe Alvaro Brechner’s third film reconstructs an dark political chapter in Uruguayan history without resorting to tawdry political propaganda. His focus is on the individuals rather than the nuts and bolts of Uruguayan politics. The narrative allows audiences to connect to the dilemmas of the protagonists, and their intense suffering. The empathy is immediate. The sounds and the visuals are very effective, particularly in the hallucinations and cross-cell communication by the means of knocking on the walls. The military regime does not intend to annihilate the three men: “as we can’t kill them, let’s drive them mad”, a prison ward clarifies.
Mauricio Rosencof is played by the rising Argentinian star Chino Darin (the son of Ricardo Darin). Later in life, Mauricio became the culture secretary for Montevideo. Fernandes Huidobro, El Ñato is delivered by Alfonso Tort. Pepe Mujica is convincingly interpreted by Antonio de La Torre. Mujica became the 40th president of Uruguay and governed between 2010 and 2015. He was affectionately described as “the poorest president in the world”, given his demure and down-to-earth lifestyle. He’s the subject of another film premiering right now in Venice, Emir Kusturica’s El Pepe, A Supreme Life.
The movie does not investigate the political landscape of Uruguay, but instead raises awareness of the methods used by the military in order to remain in power. It’s a powerful reminder of the importance of international human rights laws, and how their disregard could lead to perverse and inhumane – even diabolical – experiments. The director uses both humour and poetic devices in order to illustrate the darkness of an authoritarian regime.
Above everything else, this is a wake-up call to the threat to democracy that many South American countries – such as Brazil and Argentina – are experiencing right now.
A 12-Year Night has just premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. Below is a video of the standing ovation it received, as captured by our dirty writer Tiago Di Mauro.
And here is the film trailer: