This is the first and only Argentine film which has won an Oscar award . It won in the foreign language category in 1986. I had been looking for this and finally got to see yesterday.
Alicia, a high school history teacher is happily married to a successful lawyer Roberto and they have an adopted daughter, the five year old Gaby. Her contented and innocent life takes a turn when one of her students asks if she believed in what the history books say. This wake up call is followed by the revelations of her childhood friend Ana ,who returns from exile. Ana recounts how she was detained and tortured on the suspicion that her husband was a subversive. She tells the horror stories of atrocities and disappearance of people and the handing over of children of disappeared parents to families related to the military junta. This makes Alicia to question and find out how Gaby came to be adopted by her husband. Her husband is evasive and denies any wrongdoing. But Alicia is determined to find out the truth and embarks on a mission to find out if Gaby is the daughter of a disappeared mother. She goes to search hospital records and finally gets to meet Gaby´s grand mother whose daughter had disappeared during the repression of the dictatorship.
The director of the film, Luis Puenzo, has vividly brought out the trauma suffered by Argentine society during the the years of dirty war waged by the military against leftists and their sympathisers. Rather than dramatising the crimes of the dictatorship, the director has used a middle class family to tell the sufferings subtly but poignantly.
The mothers whose children had " disappeared" continue even now their mourning and walking around the Plaza of May in Buenos Aires. They are known as the Mothers of Plaza of May.
Norma Aleandro ( Alicia) and Hector Alterio ( Roberto) and the other actors have portrayed their role realistically . The actress Norma Aleandro herself had gone into exile in Uruguay and Spain and returend to Argentina only after the restoration of democracy.
The movie was started in 1983, after the fall of the military dictatorship but had to be suspended and resumed secretly after the director and actors received threats from the military officers.
Argentina has still not got over the nightmare of the suffering under the military dictatorship. Military officers involved in killings are even now brought to justice and the scars have not healed yet. This is a reminder of the historical stain in the otherwise sofisicated, refined and cultured society of Argentina.
This film certainly merited an Oscar and the other awards it won.