Produced by John Knoop, Susanna Munoz, Karina
Directed & edited by John Knoop & Karina
On the day in 1995 when news broke
of a book about dumping Argentine dissidents from Naval planes into the South
Atlantic, Susana Munoz and John Knoop left the same message on
answering machines: “It’s time for a new film about
the ‘Dirty War’.”
By the spring of ’97, with a grant from the Soros Documentary
Fund, Knoop and Munoz were in Buenos Aires filming a series of
interviews documenting the emergence of strong young voices beginning
a movement for social justice called H.I.J.O.S, a people’s
movement that soon spread throughout Latin America and beyond.
The filmmakers also interviewed several key adults who supported
and encouraged the youth: Nobel Prize winner Perez Esquivel,
history professor Osvaldo Bayer, who organized a public presentation
by the hijos at his Philosophy & Letters faculty at
Buenos Aires University; death camp survivor Graciela Deleo;
a citizen who regrets his detachment during the repression; and
a guilt-ridden representative for the perpetrators: the infamous
Captain Adolpho Scilingo who admitted in the book—El
Vuelo, by Horacio Verbitsky—that he had been ordered
to drop thirty drugged dissidents from a naval cargo plane.
From this footage Knoop made a report with
Elizabeth Farnsworth for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Further
progress got stalled by Knoop’s need to recover from a bicycle accident that
broke his neck and back, and Susana Munoz’s withdrawal
from the project and return to Argentina in 1998.
In the fall of 2008 Knoop edited the 34 hours down to a two-hour
rough cut and then compressed that to a 30-minute cut with subtitles.
When he showed it to Karina Epperlein (Phoenix Dance)
she responded strongly with a clear vision of what artistic elements
could help to deepen this precise witnessing and questioning
of the atrocities and help the viewer to come away with a universal
and hopeful story. Knoop asked her to join him as co-director/producer
and co-editor. They had worked together before, and Knoop knew
Karina’s commitment and refined ability to look for the
light in difficult and dark themes. The result of their collaborative
effort is Awakening from Sorrow: Buenos Aires 1997.
On the twentieth anniversary of the coup
H.I.J.O.S released a book of drawings under the title “20 Years: 361 Images
Against the Crimes of Yesterday and Today”. These vivid,
at times unbearably poignant black and white drawings reminded
Karina of woodcuts from German Expressionism, and she envisioned
them – together with a live music score by local composer/cellist
Beth Vandervennet – to become a character of its own. Standing
in for the missing generation of 30,000 disappeared parents – who
themselves were children of the famous “madres” – drawings
and music together describe the unimaginable. They allow the
viewer to stay emotionally connected and take in the tragedy
on a personal level. After viewing Awakening from Sorrow Farnsworth
called it a “symphonic poem”.
When the young adults who represent the legacy of the victims
describe memories of their parents, their helplessness pierces
us. Precisely this personal level of suffering propels the hijos into
action. We see them on their radio station, naming a former torturer
and giving his address and phone number; we see them paint banners,
make puppets and torches, and go on public marches demanding
justice for their parents. At the end we learn of their current
involvements. HIJOS are still marching in 2009.
Awakening from Sorrow: Buenos Aires 1997 is
of remembrance” woven with human voices, old and young,
speaking in words, feelings, music, art, and actions - remembering
a better future for all of us.