Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Documentary on Kidnapped Children Captures Ole Miss Audience

Photo by Hanna Jalawan.
Photo by Hanna Jalawan

It’s a war that took place three decades ago, but it’s impact is still being felt in Argentina today.  Now, thanks to a compelling documentary, students on the Ole Miss campus are learning about that country’s Dirty War  and the children who lost their families and their identities because of it.

“I’m a Spanish minor and it’s nice to finally see something that I’ve actually heard about. It was very smart of the people who made the film to go and tell a story that many people don’t know about and I think it had an impact on those who were here today,” said student Logan Kirkland.

Between 1976 and 1983, a National Reorganization Process enforced by the military dictatorship in Argentina, resulted in approximately 30,000 disappearances of Argentines. Within that number, approximately 500 very young children were kidnapped and given to families sympathetic to the regime.

Almost immediately, the biological grandmothers of these children started a non-governmental organization in 1977 in order to locate the missing children. The organization is called Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and they have managed to track down 109 of those child victims.

Filmmaker Dr. C.A. Tuggle, a broadcast journalism faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill, said two of his students first approached him about doing the story of the grandmothers’ search, and he quickly saw the possibilities for a documentary. “Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and the Search for Identity” is the result.

“I think it is a human story of ‘Wow, what do I do? What if I found out my parents had lied to me?’ The one that they just found, number 109, is 36 years old has a wife and has some kids, and a couple of the others are that way.  How do you tell your children that grandma and grandpa are not really grandma and grandpa? And that they knew about what happened to your real parents and in some cases actively participated in the deaths of your real parents. How do you deal with that? How do you deal with that yourself? So to me, it’s just mind-blowing.”

Students in the Overby Auditorium audience found it easy to empathize with the children who were kidnapped.

“If that happened to me I would hate my government and probably hate the family that lied to me for so long,” said Justin Ewing.

Tuggle says the story is ongoing; lawsuits and trials related to Argentina’s Dirty War continue today.  Tuggle conducted a discussion with Ole Miss students via Skype following the documentary.  He says he is frequently asked to speak about his film in other countries, where similar stories of governmental abuse have played out.

“Which reminds me, I’m going to do El Salvador in a couple of hours. And we’ve done the Spanish version probably 12 maybe 15 times so far, and an interesting thing is that every time we do a screening in Central or South America, one of the very first questions that comes from the audience, mostly students, is ‘When are you going to come to Mexico, Guatemala, or Peru… and help us tell the story of what happened in our country. So that, to me, is kind of chilling in a way, but it is also a good thing that these young people want to tell the story of what happened.  And it is your generation that has made differences like this throughout history.”