Part 3 of the series preceded by Memoria del saqueo & La dignidad de los nadies, and followed by La tierra sublevada.
Two years ago I very favorably reviewed the Argentinian documentarian Fernando E. Solanas’ Dignity of the Nobodies, shown at the 2006 SFIFF. This new work by Solanas deals with exploitation of his country from outside and how Argentina can get out from under that and become a strong, rich, independent country. My heading for Dignity was “Chaotic and grainy, but for some of us, essential viewing.” This one isn’t so grainy, and it’s still essential.
Solanas maintains a frankly socialistic, anti-neoliberal position. He focuses on resistance to privatization and points out that Argentina has enormous power that it has relinquished, but can reclaim. He beings simply with the great size and rich natural resources of the country. Then he works through a series of areas.
The aeronautical industry was established in the Thirties but completely disbanded in the 1990’s, when the country’s biggest family was turned over to Lockheed. The automotive industry got its energy in ARgentina from the great enthusiasm for car racing in the Fifties, when the Argentinian driver Juan Manuel Fango was the Formula One champion. After producing economy cars, off-road vehicles, trucks, and tractors, again the country shut down factories to join Chile as a raw materials provider to the US and the multinationals. Solanas visits car factories in Argentina and talks to workers, where now only a few continue and much of the production is done by robotics manufactured in Japan. If only the robotics were at least manufactured in Argentina, one worker laments.
Some degree of recovery from all these concessions to the US and multinationals came after 2001 when local production became necessary to to a breakdown in monetary exchange. Solanas visits a factory as he did in Dignity which the workers themselves took over and began operating themselves on a more primitive level when the owners went bankrupt and could no longer pay them wages. In a metals factory that now has huge orders from Johnson & Johnson, a socialist spirit reigns and decisions are made by consensus, not from the top down.
The scientific and industrial base of the country was most severely damaged because of the spread through Latin America of neoliberal policies, which reached its peak in the Nineties. This led to privatization and market-oriented training at the professional schools, and in turn to emigration of the best brains and talents.
Here Solanas visits a school in a poor area. The result of neoliberal policies is that the rich have 30 or 40 times richer than the poor instead of only 6 0r 7 as in the past. Still teachers perform a heroic effort to instill humanistic values in the young. The greatest enemies of progress and social equality, one teacher declares, are poverty and television.
Natural and especially mineral resources, Solanas points out, are still being turned over to the multinationals, despite a huge stock of available raw materials that Argentina has the potential and right to utilize locally and achieve more self sufficiency. And this is something that can come about, he says, through simply applying existing laws. One speaker says being self-sufficient requires first and foremost cheap energy–and so must begin with taking control of its oil.
Human resources are in effect being discarded by Argentina, Solanas shows, because the country isn’t paying its specialists, technicians and scientists enough (one young local nuclear engineer, though he chooses to remain, says he makes $3 a hour); this is equivalent to simple expelling the best trained people from the country. Argentina has no national plan, a lady scientist says. It isn’t financing scientific research. Researchers have the choice of leaving or working for multinational corporations that will have their best research done elsewhere. When ideas are originated at home, Argentina doesn’t hold onto the patents. all this goes back to the fact that the nation has no vision for its future.
Consequently Argentina continues to follow a “colonialist” model, which in this context means behaving and thinking like a colony. Through the course of the film we see dozens of factories and research centers, nuclear reactors, fields of windmills, vast tracts of unexploited land–you name it. It’s all there: not only the possibility of industrial growth, but already means of developing solar and wind power.
Solanas uses a wide angle lens throughout, which helps give a feeling of vastness. Even most interiors feel huge, whether of factories, offices, or classroom. One has a sense of room to grow, of wealth untapped, simply from the camera work. A nuclear scientist at a satellite center is enthusiastic about the creativity of the young people he works with. He says the country needs more interdisciplinary integration. Having come to Argentina from Italy at the age of nine, he is bursting with pride with what he describes as a “can-do” (se puede) nation. As an example, he cites what he worked on himself from his thirties: a uranium enrichment program that Argentina developed independently. At the end, Solanas returns to his theme: this is a country that has everything and only needs to make independent use of what it’s got.
Once again, in the third film in his trilogy, “Pino” Solanas has given us a documentary full of enthusiasm and hope. Does he look much at disadvantages and obstacles? No. His aim is to inspire rather than deeply analyze. And he succeeds: his films have a tremendous drive and never lose their thrust or their focus.
1.80GB | 1 h 39 min | 862×466 | mkv