Two years ago, Fernando E. Solanas came to the Tribeca Film Festival with A Social Genocide, his analysis of the role that globalization and neoliberalism played in Argentina's economic disaster. Now the great director is back with a companion film, The Dignity of the Nobodies, that takes the viewer deep into the heart of human suffering and rebellion. This exhilarating work celebrates the individual and collective reactions of normal Argentines when suddenly faced with poverty, and demonstrates how a seemingly inflexible reality can be made to bend. Solanas does not concentrate on how the poor are victimized, but rather on how they have managed to win small but telling victories. One key storyline focuses on indebted farmers in the pampas who are being forced off their ancestors' lands by foreclosure on their mortgages. Many of these farmers have committed suicide, and the climate is one of helplessness until one woman decides to disrupt the auction of her own farm by singing the national anthem. To date, more than a thousand auctions have been called off with simple tactics just like this. In Patagonia, factory workers who were laid off when their plant shut down have begun to run the place themselves. Amazingly, workers have reopened 160 factories so far. These upbeat stories are real eye-openers, and the film ends with a rousing final call to action and resistance. The Dignity of the Nobodies is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand the human factor behind Argentina's headlines.
Director's Statement Collapse
The Dignity of the Nobodies was conceived from the social catastrophe that Argentina went through at the beginning of the 21st century, as 25% of the population became unemployed and 60% became poor or indigent. We were able to feed 300 million people, yet 100 people died every day due to hunger or curable illnesses. There were more people dead every year than there were disappeared due to state terrorism. The tragedy pushed me to preserve memory against oblivion. The younger ones wondered what had happened, and although we had reported about it many times during the 1990's, it was necessary to show images of that history and place them in their context. Thus were born Memoria del Saqueo (A Social Genocide; 2002/2004), which was an analysis of the policies of power, and La Dignidad de los Nadies (The Dignity of the Nobodies), which was built up from the accounts and stories of some of the protagonists of the social resistance. The latter is an anonymous and everyday epic of those who have always been betrayed: the impoverished middle classes, the unemployed, and the piqueteros who take to the streets to block the roads. Decades ago, a similar situation led me to conceive La Hora de los Hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces) and then Los Hijos de Fierro (The Sons of Fierro), two different films, independent from each other, about Argentina and its social struggles in those years. The discourse of the only possible choice was imposed in the 1990's through the media, instilling a culture of defeat that still persists in millions of people despite the hundreds of mobilisations that showed it was possible to defeat impunity. The spontaneous insurrection of December 19 and 20, 2001 will be one of the first victories against the global model. In The Dignity of the Nobodies some experiences are gathered through the stories of their protagonists. It was hard to imagine that the small women farmers, ignorant of banking or political affairs, would be able to organise a vigorous and original resistance movement, confronting banks and stopping over a thousand auction sales. Neighborhood or community soup kitchens, community clinics, bakeries, and other social initiatives were created by the neighbors in order to respond to poverty and hunger. Dozens of silence marches were staged by relatives of the victims of police mafias, and these managed to unmask the murderers and send them to trial. The factories were revived by their former workers, showing that under self-management and without the hierarchical structures of managers and forermen, they could produce with efficiency and quality. Upon travelling throughout the country and speaking with workers, specialists, producers, citizens, peasants, and the indigenous, the idea of making a fresco of the country kept growing. Four independent feature films have been made, all linked by the subject of Argentina: from the devastation and looting of the neoliberal model to the reconstruction and alternatives of a new project capable of recovering the rights of the violated and of truly democratising democracy.
About the Director(s)Collapse
Fernando E. Solanas was born in Olivos, Argentina, in 1936. In 1968, he directed La Hora de los Hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces), a three-part political documentary that had to be screened clandestinely in his own country and for which he won the Critics' Prize at that year's Pesaro Film Festival. Solanas has written widely about militant cinema. In 1975, he finished his first fiction film Los Hijos de Fierro (The Sons of Fierro) about the life of Argentine poet Martín Fierro. After the Argentine military coup in 1976, Solanas moved to Paris. His Tangos: El Exilio de Gardel (Tangos: Gardel's Exile) won awards at the Venice Film Festival, and subsequent films like Sur (South) and Memoria del Saqueo (A Social Genocide) (TFF 2004) earned him further international recognition.