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Argentina – Hope in Hard Times

In Spanish with English subtitles, or all Spanish version.

In December 2001 the Argentinean economy collapsed. Millions of people, working class and middle class, lost their jobs. Many who stayed in employment received only a fraction of their wages, or nothing at all. Small farmers, heavily in debt, moved to the cities. Savings were massively devalued. Hard times indeed, and Dworkin and Young’s well-titled film looks at how Argentineans reacted.

People came together and helped each other. We see people in a middle-class Buenos Aires neighbourhood raising money to pay for cartoneros – who sort garbage and sell what’s recyclable – to have anti-tetanus jabs. Workers set up co-operatives to reopen their factories. Homeless families set up co-operatives to grow food and build homes on abandoned land.

This is great stuff – and inspiring. Yet it’s undermined by the film’s jaunty community ethos. Like an alternative PR film, it avoids anything uncomfortable or difficult. We’d have a stronger sense of what’s at stake if we saw the cities’ legions of beggars and homeless children, and how grim the life of a cartonero actually is. Neither does the film indicate how widespread the actions are. Why has the Right held off? How significant is the ‘new politics’? It’s odd that a film about a country so beset by political violence has so little to say about its politics.

New Internationalist issue 381 magazine cover This article is from the August 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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