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NIGHT OF THE PENCILS

Argentina, 1986 (MIFF 1987)

Director: Héctor Olivera

With this gripping, disturbing account of the kidnapping, torture and ultimate disappearance of six high school students in the early years of the Argentine military regime's "dirty war" against subversion, Hector Olivera resumes the historical-political line of his best work.

Ohvera and Daniel Kon's script focuses on seven youngsters (five boys and two girls) who led a noisy campaign to attain a fare discount for students on the buses of La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires. The discount was granted when Isobel Peron was President. After she was ousted by the military and strict rules imposed to curb student unrest, the same young people conducted another campaign - mostly by painting slogans and distributing leaflets - against these restrictions. They were followed by security police and police officers disguised as civilians took them from their homes and carried them to secret detention sites where they were tortured and forced to 'confess' to non-existent links with guerrillas.

Their ordeal is depicted with impressive realism, though short of gory details. Olivera has chosen to register the merciless ways employed to humiliate them and break their dignity as human beings. Based on facts told by the only survivor of the group and filmed in locations where most of it took place, the film has a ring of truth enhanced by the able acting of the newcomers chosen for the main roles.

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