A film print of a landmark documentary about Juan Domingo Perón has been discovered in a hidden compartment of an old wardrobe in an empty house.
La revolución justicialista (‘The Justicialist Revolution’), the 1971 documentary by the group Cine Liberación, was believed lost until the Society of Audiovisual Heritage made the discovery in Buenos Aires Province. Fernando Madedo, head of the society, announced the finding on Friday at a conference about film preservation during the 38th Mar del Plata Film Festival.
In May 2021, a person who was looking after an empty house in Buenos Aires Province contacted film collector Alejandro Ojeda and Madedo to tell them that he had found some film cans on the premises.
“There were several films in the house, like Mercado de Abasto [a 1955 classic by Lucas Demare starring tango singer Tita Merello], but there were also three cans that were unlabelled,” Ojeda told the Herald.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Argentina was ruled by the “Argentine revolution,” a military dictatorship that overthrew President Arturo Illia in 1966. At the time, any political material related to Perón was considered subversive, and therefore, illegal. This is probably why the film was hidden and unlabelled, according to Madedo.
“We managed to get the films off their rusty spools, placed it on the work table, cleaned it up with isopropyl alcohol, and when I saw the first frame through a magnifying lens, I saw images of a demonstration with signs for Perón and Evita,” says Ojeda.
That’s when they realized this could be “Pino” Solanas’ lost film.
“We started watching the whole thing. And, well, I got goose bumps,” he added.
The central figure of Argentine politics in the 20th century, Perón led the rise of the welfare state during his 1945-1955 presidency, promoting workers’ rights and economic independence.
Directed by Cine Liberación founders Fernando “Pino” Solanas and Octavio Getino, the film is the first half of an extensive interview the directors conducted with the Argentine leader during his exile in Spain. The other half is called Perón: Actualización política y doctrinaria para la toma del poder (Perón: Political and Doctrinal Update for Taking Power). In these films, the leader delivers his political analysis about the past, present and future of the Peronist movement in Argentina.
Created in the 1960s by Solanas, Getino and Gerardo Vallejo, the Cine Liberación group’s first work was their 1968 agitprop La Hora de los Hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces), an essay film about the history of Argentina from an anti-colonialist perspective.
Like most of the work of this militant filmmaking group, the documentary was shown at clandestine screenings in secret venues, often triggering long sessions of political debate. According to film historian Fernando Martín Peña, the Perón interview films were also very popular because the leader had been in exile since 1955 and this was the first time many Peronist supporters had seen and heard their leader in an audiovisual format.
Solanas would later participate in the reform of Argentina’s constitution, becoming a senator, presidential candidate, and later, Argentina’s UNESCO ambassador in Paris, where he died of Covid in 2020. But La revolución justicialista was believed lost.
Until now, the only existing version of the film was a digital copy broadcast on TV in 2007 on Filmoteca, a show hosted by Peña on Argentina’s public network, thanks to a DVD a private citizen submitted to the network when he learned the film was lost.
It wasn’t until October 2022, when the Society consulted Peña about his copy, that the finders realized they had found the only known film print of La revolución justicialista in existence.
With the discovery of a celluloid copy, this historic documentary can now be preserved “for 50 or 100 years more,” Madedo said at the Festival’s announcement.
The 16mm film is now being restored by the Society for Audiovisual Heritage, which is currently in talks with the filmmakers’ estate to determine where the print will be stored and preserved.
“We are working on that, we have yet to speak with Octavio Getino’s family just as we did with Pino Solanas’. For the moment, the print will remain in the collection of the Society for Audiovisual Heritage along with other Argentine films and newsreels,” Madedo told the Herald.
“We are thinking about screening it next year, on the 50th anniversary of Perón’s death.”