Dir. Fernando E. Solanas, 2004, Aregentina, 120 mins
Narration: Fernando E. Solanas
A Social Genocide is the latest documentary by Fernando Solanas, a director known for his classic political documentary film The Hour of the Furnaces (1969), made in collaboration with filmmaker Octavio Getino. Solanas' latest film is a no frills and all facts look at recent Argentinean history and politics, showing how privatisation and globalisation have dismantled the industry and infrastructure of a nation that was once able to sustain itself. The film is not cinematic in the sense that it uses aural and visual techniques to communicate its ideas. It is more like TV news reportage; a straightforwardly presented assemblage of facts and opinions. Instead of using flashy techniques or broad irony to bolster his thesis, Solanas' meaty documentary spews out information at the viewer at a blistering pace. What is initially presented may not be revelatory (being told that politicians are corrupt is hardly groundbreaking news), but as the film goes on, Solanas shows us how these shady politicians got what they wanted at the expense of the welfare of the Argentina and its people, and how the citizens of Argentina have challenged those in power who claim to represent their best interests.
Raw, hand-held documentary footage of protesters on the streets of Buenos Aires and the poor and disenfranchised of Argentina is counter pointed with stately shots that glide through long corridors and around cavernous halls of government buildings. Solanas also uses archive film clips of politicians, as well as featuring contemporary interviews with political experts who comment on the history of Argentina and the current state of the country. Just as Michael Moore lays a lot of the blame for what he sees as the current poor state of American and global politics at the feet of George Bush, so Solanas directs much of his anger for Argentina's towards one man; former Argentinean President Carlos Menem. Solanas blames Menem for Argentina 's social decline, deprivation and poverty. As Solana's shows us, Menem sold off the state run oil, rail and communication companies to foreign businesses at cheaper prices than they were worth, in order to attract overseas business, which ushered in an era of rabid privatisation. The result was not prosperity for Argentina and its citizens. Instead, companies were downsized, public services declined and citizens' pensions were taken away.
A Social Genocide shows how Argentina has been betrayed by politician's who profess to help the citizens, but who instead put the business interests of a few rich and powerful people over the wellbeing of its citizens. Solanas' documentary may focus on the problems that Argentina has faced, but many of the arguments that his film puts forward could be applied to virtually any country. Communication, cooperation and understanding among the citizens of the world are obviously welcome developments, but the ravenous appetite for profit sought by some global corporations is damaging many countries around the world, and is threatening people's livelihoods and liberty. Solanas' prognosis of his state of Argentina may be a bleak one, but he also offers a measure of hope at the film's conclusion, showing us that protests and resistance by citizens can make a difference, and that the government can be held to account for its own behaviour. Leftwing film viewers may be disheartened that Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) failed to unseat Bush from the White House, but the ending of A Social Genocide is hopeful, showing us that the disgruntled and marginalised citizens who have been failed by the government can affect change for the better.