March 21, 2010

Knocks at my door (Alejandro Saderman, 1994)

Knocks at my door explores the political instability that has plagued Latin-American countries and Third-world countries in general. Columbia, Haïti and African countries like Zaïre have always, it seems, been subject to political upheavals. Cynics talk of a curse of the Third World, willfully occulting these countries’ colonial pasts and the Imperialist influences shaping their present. Knocks at my door is a snapshot of Argentina’s revolutionary past, before the 1983 democratic government. In the film, two Catholic nuns harbor a young revolutionary hunted by the military, under pain of death. When found out, they must decide what is more important, to honor the memory of the deceased revolutionary, a family man, or save their own lives by conforming to the present government. In declining to sign a false statement, the nun Ana refuses to succumb to the military’s power and is executed for it. However, the message is clear: social change through civil disobedience.

South America’s filmography is littered with examples of heroes, ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of their country or just unwilling to adhere to social conventions. In Camila (María Luisa Bemberg, Argentina, 1984), our heroine, in love, the daughter of a rich land-owner, opposes social conventions by running away with Ladislao, a Jesuit priest. She soon succumbs to the patriarchal rule and is executed for her affront, a scene echoed in Knocks at my door with the execution of the nun. Furthermore, in Death and the Maiden (Roman Polanski, 1994), the wife of a revolutionary kidnaps and tortures a man she believes to have tormented and raped her. It is almost a continuation of the nun Ana’s story, if she hadn’t been executed. The fact that, in Death and the Maiden, the country is never named makes it more able to represent the whole of South American countries.

Emphasizing the influence of Imperialist superpowers in Latin America, The Tailor of Panama (John Boorman, 2001) echoes the same political unrest that plagues South American countries. In it, an informant becomes responsible for an invasion of Panama when the false information he’s been feeding a secret agent scares several foreign governments. In Boorman’s film, we see how the hand of superpowers guides the destinies of Third-world countries.