The Child in Post-dictatorship Southern Cone Film

  • Deborah Martin
Part of the Global Cinema book series (GLOBALCINE)


This chapter deals with the Southern Cone, where narratives of historical memory have come to occupy an important place since the end of the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. Those who experienced military rule as children have now reached adulthood, leading to a wave of films which focalise the period through the eyes of a child. Middle-class children function as witnesses to the historical events unfolding around them in the Argentine Kamchatka (Piñeyro, 2001), Cautiva (Biraben, 2005) and Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta (Bustamante, 2009), the Chilean Machuca (Wood, 2004), and the Uruguayan Paisito (Díez, 2008), amongst other films. The chapter gives a broad overview of the phenomenon, which, alongside the street child, is the most common representational use of children in Latin American film. It argues that the child’s limited agency and understanding of the world encapsulates the crisis of adult subjectivity in the face of the bewildering historical realities these films depict (Kelleher 1998; Miller 2003) and traces significant meanings of the child-figure, and of play, in the films La historia oficial (Puenzo, 1985), Machuca and Los rubios (Carri, 2003). The chapter then turns its attention to Lucía Cedrón’s Cordero de Dios (2008), examining questions of (post)memory, intergenerational memory and mediation in that film, and the way the film constructs a poetics of postmemory through the extra-visual senses, as well as analysing the depiction of play and toys therein. The chapter shows how the narrative oscillation in Cordero de Dios between the viewpoint of the child and her adult counterpart allows for a sustained reflection on memory’s mediation.


  1. Aguilar, Gonzalo. 2008. Other Worlds: New Argentine Film. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Amado, Ana. 2009. La imagen justa: cine argentino y política 19802007. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Colihue.Google Scholar
  3. Bachelard, Gaston. 1969. The Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language and the Cosmos. Translated by Daniel Russell. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barrow, Sarah. 2017. ‘Through Female Eyes: Reframing Peru on Screen.’ In Latin American Women Filmmakers: Production, Politics, Poetics, edited by Deborah Martin and Deborah Shaw, 48–69. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  5. Barthes, Roland. 1981. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  6. Blejmar, Jordana. 2013. ‘Toying with History: Playful Memory in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios.Journal of Romance Studies 13, no. 3: 44–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. ———. 2014. ‘Dictatorship Toys: Play and State Terror in Argentina.’ In Témoigner par l’Image, edited by Paul Bernard-Nourard and Luba Jurgenson, 125–43. Paris: Éditions Pétra.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2017. ‘Children’s Toys, Argentine Nationhood and Blondeness in Albertina Carri’s Barbie Gets Sad Too and Néstor and Martín C’s Easy Money.’ In Childhood and Nation in Contemporary World Cinemas: Borders and Encounters, edited by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald et al., 225–44. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  9. Breckenridge, Janis. 2011. ‘El lugar del cine: entrevista a Daniel Bustamante.’ Chasqui 40, no. 1: 264–67.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2012. ‘Enabling, Enacting and Envisioning Societal Complicity: Daniel Bustamante’s Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta (2009).’ In Representing History, Class and Gender in Spain and Latin America: Children and Adolescents in Film, edited by Carolina Rocha and Georgia Seminet, 101–44. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Brémard, Bénédicte. 2008. ‘L’enfant à l’écran: une figure du résistant’. L’Âge d’or. Available online Accessed 9 April 2018.
  12. Bronfen, Elisabeth. 1992. Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cedrón, Lucía, and Antonia García Castro. 2008. ‘Metáforas literales: diálogo con Lucía Cedron, cineasta’, Cultures et Conflits. Accessed 2 March 2018.
  14. Cedrón, Lucía, and Revista Zoom. 2008. ‘Lucía Cedrón: la política tiene que servirnos como brújula’. Revista Zoom. Accessed 2 March 2018.
  15. De Grandis, Rita. 2011. ‘The Innocent Eye: Children’s Perspectives on Utopias of the Seventies (O Ano em que Meus Pais Sairam de Ferias, Machuca, and Kamchatka).’ In The Utopian Impulse in Latin America, edited by Kim Beauchesne and Alessandra Santos, 235–56. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Delgado, Maria. 2017. ‘Meeting Points: An Interview with Mariana Rondón and Marité Ugas.’ In A Companion to Latin American Cinema, edited by Maria Delgado et al., 487–98. Chichester: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dufays, Sophie. 2014a. El niño en el cine argentino de la postdictadura 19832008: alegoría y nostalgia. Woodbridge: Tamesis.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2014b. ‘From the Child Who Dies to the Adolescent Who Kills: Children’s Perception and Melancholy in La ciénaga and La rabia.’ In Screening Minors in Latin American Cinema, edited by Carolina Rocha and Georgia Seminet, 19–34. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  19. Foster, David William. 1992. Contemporary Argentine Cinema. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press.Google Scholar
  20. Freud, Sigmund. 1953 [1920]. ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle.’ In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, edited by James Strachey, 7–33. London: Hogarth.Google Scholar
  21. Hirsch, Marianne. 2012. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hogan, Erin. 2012. ‘Tomando partido: Soccer and Political Opposition in O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias (Cao Hamburger 2006) and Paisito (Ana Díez 2008).’ The Proceedings of the UCLA Spanish and Portuguese Graduate Conference 1, no. 1. Accessed 12 April 2018.
  23. Kinder, Marsha. 1983. ‘The Children of Franco in the New Spanish Cinema.’ Quarterly Review of Film and Video 8, no. 2: 57–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lury, Karen. 2010. The Child in Film: Tears, Fears and Fairytales. London. I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  25. Maffla, Diana. 2007. ‘Niños desaparecidos, identidades expropiadas bajo la dictadura militar en Argentina.’ In Historia de la Infancia en América Latina, edited by Pablo Rodríguez and María Emma Mannarelli, 555–64. Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia.Google Scholar
  26. Martín-Cabrera, Luis, and Daniel Noemi Voionmaa. 2007. ‘Class Conflict, State of Exception and Radical Justice in Machuca by Andrés Wood.’ Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 16, no. 1: 63–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Martin-Jones, David. 2011. Deleuze and World Cinemas. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  28. Miller, Tyrus. 2003. ‘The Burning Babe: Children, Film, Narrative, and the Figures of Historical Witness.’ In Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma, edited by Ana Douglass and Thomas A. Vogler, 207–31. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Nouzeilles, Gabriela. 2005. ‘Postmemory Cinema and the Future of the Past in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios.’ Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 14, no. 3: 263–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Peña, Fernando. 2003. El cine quema. Jorge Cedrón. Buenos Aires: Altamira.Google Scholar
  31. Randall, Rachel. 2017. Children on the Threshold in Contemporary Latin American Cinema: Nature, Gender, and Agency. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  32. Rocha, Carolina. 2012. ‘Children’s Views of State-Sponsored Violence in Latin America: Machuca and The Year My Parents Went on Vacation.’ In Representing History, Class and Gender in Spain and Latin America: Children and Adolescents in Film, edited by Carolina Rocha and Georgia Seminet, 83–100. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rocha, Carolina, and Georgia Seminet, eds. 2012. Representing History, Class and Gender in Spain and Latin America: Children and Adolescents in Film. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  34. Serpente, Alejandra. 2011. ‘The Traces of “Postmemory” in Second Generation Argentine and Chilean Identities.’ In The Memory of State Terrorism in the Southern Cone, edited by Francesca Lessa and Vincent Druliolle, 133–56. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stern, Steve J. 2010. Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile, 19892006. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sutton-Smith, Brian. 1986. Toys as Culture. New York: Gardner Press.Google Scholar
  37. Thomas, Sarah. 2014. ‘“Yo No Soy Invisible”: Imaginative Agency in Las malas intenciones.’ In Screening Minors in Latin American Cinema, edited by Carolina Rocha and Georgia Seminet, 53–67. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  38. Werth, Brenda. 2010. Theatre, Performance and Memory Politics in Argentina. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Winnicott, Donald Woods. 1991 [1971]. Playing and Reality. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Wright, Sarah. 2015. 《那年阳光灿烂》中的记忆,表演和儿童证人/Memory, Performance and the Child Witness in Andrés Wood’s Machuca (2004).’ 《中国传媒报告》/China Media Report 14, no. 1: 50–56.Google Scholar
  41. ———. 2017. ‘Child, Cinema, Dictatorship: Ignacio Agüero’s One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train.’ In Childhood and Nation in Contemporary World Cinema: Borders and Encounters, edited by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald et al., 103–17. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar


  1. Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta. 2009. Dir. Daniel Bustamante. Argentina: El Ansia Producciones.Google Scholar
  2. Barbie también puede eStar triste. 2002. Dir. Albertina Carri. Argentina: NQVAC. Vimeo.Google Scholar
  3. Cautiva. 2003. Dir. Gastón Biraben. Argentina: Cacerolazo Producciones.Google Scholar
  4. Cien niños esperando un tren. 1988. Dir. Ignacio Agüero. Chile, UK: Channel Four, Ignacio Agüero & Asociados.Google Scholar
  5. Cordero de Dios. 2008. Dir. Lucía Cedrón. Argentina, France: Les Films d’ici, Goa Films, Lita Stantic Productions.Google Scholar
  6. El espíritu de la colmena. 1973. Dir. Víctor Erice. Spain: Elias Quejereta Producciones Cinematográficas.Google Scholar
  7. Forbidden Games. 1952. Dir. René Clément. France: Silver Films.Google Scholar
  8. Infancia clandestina. 2012. Dir. Benjamín Ávila. Argentina, Spain, Brazil: Historias Cinematográficas S. A., Habitación 1520 Producciones.Google Scholar
  9. Operación masacre. 1973. Dir. Jorge Cedrón. Argentina: Oscar Daunes.Google Scholar
  10. La historia oficial. 1985. Dir. Luis Puenzo. Argentina: Historias Cinematográficas.Google Scholar
  11. Las malas intenciones. 2011. Dir. Rosario García-Montero. Peru, Argentina, Germany: Barry Films, Garmont Films.Google Scholar
  12. Machuca. 2004. Dir. Andrés Wood. Chile, Spain, UK, France: Wood Productions, Tornasol Films, Mamoun Hassan Films.Google Scholar
  13. Mirror. 1975. Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. Soviet Union: Mosfilm.Google Scholar
  14. O Ano em que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias. 2006. Dir. Imperio Hamburger. Brazil: Gullane, Caos Produções Cinematográficas.Google Scholar
  15. Paisito. 2008. Dir. Ana Díez. Uruguay, Spain, Argentina: Haddock Films, La Jolla Films.Google Scholar
  16. Postales de Leningrado. 2007. Dir. Mariana Rondón. Venezuela: Sudaca Films.Google Scholar
  17. Princesas rojas. 2013. Dir. Laura Astorga. Venezuela, Costa Rica: Hol y Asociados, La Feria Producciones.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American StudiesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations