Argentine documentary about junta trial to screen at Berlin Film Festival

Like the Oscar-nominated Argentina, 1985, The Trial centres on the country's former dictatorship

Witness Myriam Lewin in The Trial. Photo: Memoria Abierta
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

An Argentine documentary based on hundreds of hours of audio-visual recordings of a seminal 1985 trial of leaders of the country's bloody military junta will make its international debut on Sunday at the Berlin Film Festival.

The release of The Trial coincides with the 40th anniversary of the return of democracy in Argentina, following the 1976 to 1983 dictatorship, which left up to 30,000 people dead or missing, according to human rights organisations.

The trial was the only time a democratic government has launched a large-scale civil judicial assault on former dictatorial rulers. The case proved a watershed moment for Argentina.

"There are very few or perhaps no societies that have done a justice process like the one that Argentina did," said director Ulises de la Orden, who painstakingly went through 500 hours of raw footage to create the near three-hour documentary.

"It was also immediately after [the end of the dictatorship], that's the most interesting thing. Those commanders, those dictators still had influence."

The director said he hopes the documentary will bring history closer to younger generations and inspire other judicial processes.

"I am not sure that our youth know a lot about what happened to us in the '70s," he said after a screening of the film in Buenos Aires attended by judges from the case and the sole surviving prosecutor.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, then assistant prosecutor who later became the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, said the documentary carries a powerful message.

"I think it is super important a film that shows us the difference between treating people as citizens, including commanders who committed crimes, giving them rights and respecting their rights," Moreno Ocampo said.

"And contrasting it with what they did, treating suspects or people they didn't like by torturing and killing them."

The film is the second to cover the subject in recent months, following the release of the feature film Argentina, 1985, which is nominated at the Oscars for Best International Feature Film after winning a Golden Globe award last month.

Oscars 2023 nominees — in pictures

Updated: February 14, 2023, 2:12 PM