Argentinian Movie Rojo Explanation and Investigation

Argentinian Movie Rojo Explanation and Investigation
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Rojo is a movie brought to us by Shelby on the Movie Recommendation widget (red tab at the bottom of your screen) and we recently highlighted in our Spotlight #10. As I was writing up the Spotlight, I noticed Shelby’s comment that it was similar to Incendies. Now, I don’t know about you, but Incendies was one of the most intense, brilliantly played, political thrillers I’ve ever seen. Sort of lit me on fire from the inside out. So, yes…if you want to get my attention, compare a movie to Incendies. Therefore I immediately went out and watched it, and really had to sit with it for a week or so before the movie really started making sense to me. So here we go – “Argentinian Movie Rojo Explanation and Investigation.” Let’s see if we can figure this beast of a movie out. Argentinian Movie Rojo Explanation and Investigation.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please don’t continue on. It will literally make zero sense at all. If you’d like to watch it, you can check it out on Amazon, Play, or Vudu. Also, another detail you might want know going in, is that Rojo is literally a historical investigation into a very specific moment in the country of Argentina. The movie only vaguely references the historical context of the moment – but it is literally the only thing that matters in this movie. So, with that idea firmly planted in our minds… let’s dive in. First, a trailer. Please don’t read further if you’ve not seen the film. Thanks!

70’s Argentinian History 101

Before we start – we have to get a little bit of history out of the way. Rojo is set in the period of 1975 right before a coup that brought in a military junta in Argentina. The junta, or Dirty War, as it was called there in Argentina, was a period of state terrorism in Argentina against its people, which was totally supported by Henry Kissinger and the United States. Kissinger, then Secretary of State, went so far as to congratulate the Argentinian military for their wiping out of their leftist opposition. And he had even given the military a “green light” on their state policies and operations. And to be clear, these operations were to “disappeared” all dissidents and subversives in the country. So, yeah, the context of this movie is highly relevant to the larger story happening here.

Quick Rojo Run Through

The movie opens as we watch people walk into and out of a home, taking valuables with them as they go. This one, elongated cut, is the entire crux of the movie. But we’ll get to that later. Just put a pin in that thought for a moment.

The movie then moves to a scene at a restaurant. Claudio (played by Dario Graninetti – Wild Tales which I absolutely adored a few years back. I had never seen anything quite like it.) is sitting at a table, awaiting his wife’s arrival. He is obviously important, he’s being greeted by other important people as they eat. But then, out of nowhere, Dieguito begins to abuse him for sitting there, taking up a table when he could be ordering and eating. The argument gives Claudio a chance to derisively speak down to the man as he gives up the table. The argument ends later in the evening, as Claudio and his wife watch on, with Dieguito shooting himself in the face. Instead of taking Dieguito to the hospital, or even calling the police, Claudio takes the injured man out to the desert to die.

Later, Claudio’s businessman friend tells him about a home that has been sitting empty that they could flip and profit from. Instead of asking to purchase the deed from the government, the ploy is to draft up fake ownership papers for the home for a third party, and then to have that third party sell them the home for a song. This will then enable Claudio and his friend to sell the home and split the proceeds of the sale. While touring the home, Claudio looks past the hand prints of smeared blood throughout the home. Paint will cover that for sure. Soon after, Claudio discovers that the home was previously owned by the now dead Dieguito. Are we starting to pick up what the director and writer, Benjamín Naishtat is putting down here?

In another thread entirely, we watch as Claudio’s daughter participates in a drama class, as they prepare for putting on a widely anticipated play within the community. And just before they are ready to perform their work, one of the actors goes missing… becoming another one of the disappeared.

Eventually, Claudio learns that a detective, Sinclair, has been assigned to Dieguito’s disappearance. And for some odd reason, this detective is sticking closely to Claudio. Eventually, the detective asks Claudio to take him out to the desert, where Sinclair all but implies that he knows that Claudio killed Dieguito. And Claudio even admits that he was involved in the gruesome affair. And it’s interesting how this Detective Sinclair is more a work of conscious than an actual policeman. And as the film comes to a conclusion, Sinclair waxes eloquent:

Argentinian Movie Rojo Explanation and Investigation - because the reality and the fiction are intricately intertwined.

“What you need to understand is that we are fighting a greater evil here. Do you understand the nature of our enemy? Do you imagine a country without law, without God? Look at these beautiful plains and this beautiful sky. Look at it all and tremble counselor, tremble. Because this is the work of God.”

Claudio and his wife then go to the theater in order to watch the play… and smugly watch on as the play tells the story of one of their los desaparecidos, the disappeared. And applaud with detachment as the credits roll.

Argentinian Movie Rojo Explanation and Investigation

30,000 Argentinians disappeared during the junta. The Dirty War declared disagreeing voices as “terrorists,” then would kidnap them, tortured them and then murder them. They would machine gun them down, and they’d fall into large pits to be shoveled over and forgotten. There were even reports that they tossed victims from planes into the sea. Worse, women who were pregnant? They were locked up until they gave birth. The mothers were then murdered, and the babies were adopted by junta families. (There is an organization that is searching for the thousands of children that were stolen from their murdered mothers. Which is all just so unbelievable to to me.)

So, knowing the story of Rojo, and knowing the backstory of Rojo, can we ascertain who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and the logical point of the movie? So, yeah, Claudio isn’t as innocent as he once appeared right? Not only is Claudio not innocent, he is a part of the problem… the reason that the Junta and the disappeared became a thing. Sure, Claudio literally disappeared someone, but he was also complicit in the larger problem that created the situation in the first place. A ruling class that looked to silence dissenting voices throughout the country.

We see this in stark contrast when we watch as Claudio walks through Dieguito’s home. The neighbors aren’t concerned. It’s as if they have all taken to the place, and decided it was now communal property. Worse, instead of being concerned for Dieguito, his family, and all their whereabouts, they overlook the obvious signs of distress. The plundered furniture and stolen items from the house. The blood stains smeared across the walls. All of these various data points are literally ignored, and the home becomes a retreat center for the local community. And knowing that the family was killed violently, you’d think it’d cause concern for Claudio and his “business partner,” but no, they see it as an opportunity to lie, steal, and connive, in order to take it from this now dead family. It’s as if the home is the guilty hearts and minds of those in Argentina that chose not to speak up for fear of a similar fate. They are implicitly guilty. Heck, Claudio is explicitly guilty!

And the ending? The local community has dressed up, Claudio is even wearing his best hair piece for the occasion! Claudio has just returned from the desert with his jiminy cricket who has told him that God sees all, God will judge him for his actions… not the detective. Claudio has had his reckoning, and what does he do with this knowledge? He joins his complicit countrymen in watching a play about the disappeared put on by his daughter. Worse, one of the play’s ensembles even went missing just recently, in a literal example of this morality play’s topic. And here he is, on his moral high horse. Watching the play unfold. Applauding and enjoying the conversation about this horrible moral evil that he is literally complicit in. WHICH! is a reference to the Argentinian audience, happily watching the movie Rojo, enjoying the tale unfold, happily giggling along with the story, not realizing that they are just as much to blame as Claudio, our hero.

And to extrapolate it one step further, it is also about us. The non-Argentinians among us (which, probably, are 99.9% of us) who are happily wagging our morally uptight fingers at the Argentinians. We aren’t so innocent ourselves. Not by a long shot. We would all be wise to remember that this world is not absent morality. It isn’t absent laws. Even when justice has failed, and a country willingly chooses to turn a blind eye on a section of our world’s plight. Rojo would tell us, that God has created the glorious mountains, and the sky… we should all tremble. We all should.

Edited by: CY