SOCIAL GENOCIDE (Fernando E. Solanas). 118 minutes. Opens Friday (May 13). Subtitled. For venues and times, see Movies, page 102. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
How do revolutions start? Obviously, something sets people off: a shot is fired, a phony election is held, tea gets dumped in a harbour. But which is the moment when the populace decides it's mad as hell and isn't going to take it any more?
Fernando Solanas's documentary, Social Genocide, is a portrait in revolution. It traces Argentina's economic history from independence to December 2001, when a popular uprising toppled the latest in a long line of corrupt governments.
It's a sorry tale of collusion between multinationals, politicians and union bosses to sell off state property at a fraction of its value and saddle the country with "public" debt incurred by foreign investors. There are heartbreaking shots of malnourished children, closed businesses and gasoline-poisoned wells.
Early in the film we hear a metalic clanging in the night. It seems to come both from the street and from the lit windows above. People are banging on their (empty) pots and pans; eventually, the clanging spreads and the people start banging on bank doors instead of cookware. How did it begin? Who was the first person to bash a soup pot in frustration, and how did the idea spread?
The film can't tell us, of course. But it's a powerful reminder that some democracies are still worthy of the name. They can't afford the complacency that affects nations where wealth, security and cynicism have dulled the political will.
Somewhere in the world, democracy flourishes.