Chilean Cinema 2012 #13: Sibila (2012)

(Chile, Spain, Peru, France 2012 95m)

p Teresa Arredondo, Viviana Erpel d Teresa Arredondo w Teresa Arredondo, Martin Sappia c Teresa Arredondo, César Boretti ed Martín Sappia s Esteban Anavitarte

‘Sendero Luminoso’ was one of the most vicious paramilitar groups of Latin America that made the name of communism dirty with their views, goals and actions under the consign of a Maoist project of socially controlled communism that ended up in a civil war of gruesome proportions between the armed soldiers of Sendero and the military that tried to defend the civilians, both parts failing at actually protecting the interests of the people and being responsible for hunderds of deaths all over Peru. This film tries to chronicle history and a personal familiar story, both of which are being constantly talked about over and over through the course of the film, and it manages to distinguish the differences between the two, as connected as they are, just because of a well written narration and a clear distinction between the ‘characters’ that are interviewed regarding this two-faced/same-faced history/story. Sibila Arredondo is the aunt of the director of this film, and she has been in jail for most of the life of Teresa Arredondo (the director) because of her involvement in the Sendero Luminoso’s acts, in terms of publicity, aprooval and then helping of the killing of innocent people. All her life, Teresa has wanted to face her aunt and finally hear from her own lips that she had nothing to do with Sendero Luminoso’s killings, as that’s how it is supposed to be, but maybe the documentary holds up for a bigger surprise, maybe Teresa just wants to film some remorse from her aunt, but will she truly find it?

Many faces appear through the length of this documentary, talking good and bad about the characteristics of Sibila, and at the same time try to reconstruct facts, moments and happenings sorrounding Sibila that were affecting her and all the people in Peru at the time. Trying to reconstruct from one person’s perspective the modern history of Peru has been one of the most complete experiences I’ve had regarding information about what actually happened, filtered through the experiences of people from both sides of the civil war, as well as going beyond that and chronicling the recent problems with their presidents and their own society as well as civil community. So, having two narratives or timelines actually helps to maintain some kind of subjective view regarding history, something that is way more valuable than feeding me the facts through a voice over narration, here we have Teresa Arredondo knowing about the antics in Peru and her aunt, and at the same time we see the search for her own relationship and story with Sibila Arredondo, something that comes to a complete turnaround when we finally meet her in France, and we see what she actually thinks of the charges that were pressed against her and at the same time how she reacts to the ideology and ideas that once had her in trouble. I won’t be spoiling the beautiful and surprising nature of those final 15-20 minutes of film in which we can actually expect something from the mouth of complete subjective experience.

Nevertheless, I have to be objective and tell right away that this is a talking head documentary, one that is extremely well-edited and had many sources for it to tell its story and script, a documentary that manages to catch your attention, specially the closer it gets to the end, but then how much interviews can we handle before it turns repetitive and some facts are repeated over and over again, specially those with a strong opinion towards Sibila Arredondo? The concept of the documentary is a difficult one, and it’s hard to innovate, but sometimes something completely incredible comes around and kicks you around with the same concepts and ideas, and works like a charm, this one doesn’t advance the territory of documentary filmmaking as much as it tells a much needed story and catches us with its many characters and strong ideologies. You find yourself agreeing or desagreeing with many of the interviews, and that is not something that any other documentary can make you feel, it is extremely well done, and I can’t but hope that maybe some time in the future we can find ourselves watching documentaries that go beyond the always known (and sometimes tiring) structure and filmmaking methods. One can dream.



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