Carlos Martínez was nabbed during the bloody 1976-83 Argentine dictatorship. So when he decided to film “The Condemned” (Condenados) he had a lot of firsthand information. The movie—now showing at the Gaumont movie theater in Buenos Aires—is based on the true story of the Unit number 9 at the La Plata prison, where the Junta Militar of General Videla had concentrated thousands of political prisoners.
The fate of persons who were captured during the Dictatorship was grim indeed. Congress had been shut down, the press was muzzled and the legal system was subject to the whims of the top brass. An estimated 30,000 persons disappeared in the wake of the regime’s campaign of State terrorism, aimed at liquidating all resistance and paralyzing any questioning of the coup.
The movie, a fiction based on data obtained from survivors and the trials still going on of military officers accused of genocide, describes how leaders were separated into death wards. They would be murdered but the Dictatorship’s agents would also seek out and kill their relatives.
Attempting to survive under extreme hardships, the prisoners managed to struggle for life and dignity day by day, using all of their limited resources to the limit of human understanding.
Martínez was one of the militants held at Unit 9 in the La Plata jail, headed by Abel Dupuy who was subsequently sentenced for crimes committed at the prison. The Dictatorship defended its actions as acts of war and with that excuse went about assassinating activists of the Peronist Montoneros and the leftist Revolutionary People’s Army (ERP)—labled #unrecoverable” prisoners.
Martínez, an activists of PRT-ERP, had actually been picked up after being wounded in 1974, before the coup, on charges of “resistance to authority and possession of weapons.” He was also sent to jails in Sierra Chica and Rawson and then returned to Unit 9 at the La Plata jail. Thanks in part to the strong demands of his relatives and human rights organizations he was freed in 1981.
The film portrays with great realism the life of the prisoners, the invention of codes of communication, abuse, the struggle of family members who were not intimidated by the haughty inhumanity of the authorities.
Condenados: Gaumont Movie theater, Rivadavia 1635, Buenos Aires, Argentina. At 12:20pm, 4pm and 7:30pm
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