People simply vanished during Argentina’s Dirty War, which lasted from 1974 to 1983. With the implementation of a US-backed military dictatorship, death squads were deployed around the country to “disappear” anyone who was thought to be a political dissident or leftist. It was an extremely dark time in Argentine history.
Benjamín Naishtat’s Rojo (2018) is set just after the beginning of this war. In a small Argentine town in 1975, pompous but well-regarded lawyer Claudio (Darío Grandinetti) gets in an altercation with an unstable man in a restaurant, eventually leading to that man’s death when he is disappeared by our protagonist. The last two acts of the film draw out the complacency of Argentine society toward this new political reality and also Claudio’s desperation to hide what he has done. While much of the greater historical and political context might be missed by foreign audiences, Rojo serves up pitch-black humor (and drama) with an eye for the cinema of the era it’s depicting.
Rojo screens at SIFF Film Center this weekend (Aug 2–4).