Argentina, 1985 reveals a history of division


Ana López del Punta '23

The film Argentina, 1985 portrays the division and tensions in the country after the end of the military dictatorship of 1976-1983.

Argentina, 1985, a film that depicts the civic trial of the leaders from Argentina’s military dictatorship of 1976-1983, calls attention to the unresolved tensions that remain in the country. The movie premiered October 2022 and received an Oscar nomination for the International Feature Film category January 24, according to  In an interview with the King Street Chronicle, a leader of the resistance movement, who wished to remain anonymous, discussed the state of Argentina 40 years after the return of democracy and how the Argentine people can attain reconciliation and regain a sense of unity. 

After a series of Argentine civic-military governments in the 1930s, a military group under the leadership of General Jorge Rafael Videla staged a coup d’etat March 1976.  This anti-communist, right-leaning government consisted mainly of business elites and generals.  The conflict between the dictatorship leaders and the subversivos, who opposed the military, resulted in human rights violations, including torture and the death or disappearance of approximately 30,000 people, according to  A montonero (the most prevalent sub-group of the subversivos) leader, who participated in the fight to reinstate democracy, remarked upon why he believes the civic-military governments of the 1930s culminated in the takeover of 1976

“Certain leaders, generally linked to the old oligarchy and former owners of the land, could not carry out their economic interests or ideas through a democratic route, if we are talking about the 30s,” the montonero leader said.  “They felt as if they were owners or proprietors of Argentina.  It was much more practical [for them] to promote a military government because with their military allies it was much easier to carry out their economic plans, their social plans, and more.”

General Orlando Ramón Agosti, General Jorge Rafael Videla, and Admiral Emilio Massera headed the military dictatorship.  Ana López del Punta ’23

After seven years, the military dictatorship came to an end due to the failure of their economic policies, according to  The montonero leader commented that, in addition to this economic downturn, Argentina’s loss of the Malvinas, or Falkland Islands, to the British resulted in a further loss of patriotism and discontent with the government. 

“A component that was not minor, but very important, that the last military dictatorship used to try to save themselves was the Malvinas War,” the montonero leader said.  “The failure of being defeated in this confrontation with Great Britain deepened the disenchantment of the people and transformed what had been in the first moments of the war a very significant support to recover the Malvinas Islands to a profound questioning and an absolute rejection of the military.”

Argentine actor Mr. Ricardo Darín portrays Mr. Julio Strassera in Argentina, 1985.  Courtesy of

A film based in real events, Argentina, 1985, which released October 2022 and received an Oscar nomination for the International Feature Film category, takes place after the end of the dictatorship with the return of democracy.  The newly-elected President Raúl Alfonsín orders the Trial of the Juntas, in which a federal court judges the nine most powerful military leaders for charges of homicide.  However, the defense claims that if there were human rights abuses during the military administration, they were the errors of individual officers. 

The protagonist of the film is Mr. Julio Strassera, the Chief Federal Prosecutor of the Trial of the Juntas.  Facing daily threats to his life and that of his family, Mr. Strassera has to gather evidence of systematic torture without the help of government officials, renowned lawyers, or the police because they either maintain close ties to the military or fear their power. 

By bringing in hundreds of witnesses, the prosecution is able to prove that there was a pattern of torture and abuse throughout the country.  When Mr. Strassera communicates his final accusation, he delivers an emotive appeal to the judges and all of Argentina, calling for justice and truth after a legitimate and objective trial.  He concludes his speech with the timely phrase “Nunca Más,” which stresses that never again will there be the death, torture, and abuse of civilians, whether innocent or guilty, at the hands of the Argentine state without due trial.  The film ends with the sentencing of General Videla and Admiral Emilio Massera, among others, which marked the first time in world history that a civic trial convicted a military dictatorship.

Even after the Trial of the Juntas, however, conflict did not cease because the Argentine people wanted the trial of all those who were part of the military dictatorship, not just the leaders.  Thousands of former military officials who did not want to go to trial  resisted and called for the subversivos to receive punishment.  Although federal administrations passed laws from 1986 to 2003 to deal with this issue, tensions remain and the history of division and violence continues to affect Argentina today.  The montonero leader emphasized that to honor “Nunca Más” and for the people to heal, both sectors–the military and the subversivos–must engage in introspection and self-criticism.

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) is an Argentine organization committed to finding their grandchildren who disappeared during the dictatorship.  Ana López del Punta ’23

“There ought to be a profound process of national self-criticism, where every section bears responsibility for the tragedy through which we [Argentines] lived,” the montonero leader said.  “When you don’t acknowledge self-criticism, first it is very dangerous because it is highly feasible that many of the mistakes and/or horrors are repeated and it is very difficult for the wounds to heal if you don’t go through a process of saying, ‘let’s agree that what happened already happened and we pledge that it won’t happen again.’  When each sector remains thinking that what happened to it was terrible and that what they received from that terrible thing was unjust–and in this I refer to both sides of the conflict–it is very difficult to attain the profound and true reconciliation that we [Argentines] all need.”  

Featured Image by Ana López del Punta ’23