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Film: Argentine war three decades ago still touching lives

Las Abuelas


From 1976 to1983, human-rights advocates estimate as many as 30,000 people were tortured and killed in Argentina—a result of The Dirty War, when a military dictatorship controlled the country. Some 500 were pregnant women or new mothers. In many cases, it is believed the babies born to these women were taken away and given to supporters of the military. What happened to those babies?

That is the story of a documentary —  Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and the Search for Identity – to be screened at the Salt Lake City Main Library, Nancy Tessman Auditorium, on Saturday, February 25, 2012, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The film tells the story of a group of women, Las Abuelas (the grandmothers). Since the kidnappings in the 1970s and 1980s, these women have made it their life’s mission to find these children, many of whom are now in their 30s.

One of the stories is about Buenos Aires City Councilman Juan Cabandie, now 33, one of the 104 “children” who have been found. Cabandie’s mother was five months pregnant with him when she was kidnapped in 1977. He was taken away at 20 days old, and eventually raised by a “fake father, who was a member of the Federal Police.” Cabandie did not learn his true identity until he was 26 years old. There are no traces of his mother.

The award-winning film focuses on the basic question: “Is the right to know who you are a basic human right?”

The documentary was produced by C.A. Tuggle, the director of the journalism program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tuggle began work on this film with his two daughters and former students during a teaching trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the summer of 2009.

Through more than 40 in-depth interviews, historical material and relevant literature, Tuggle and his daughters, both graduates of the UNC School of Journalism, and many others, seek to educate people about what happened in Argentina and the work that is still continued today by Las Abuelas.

Kimberly Magnun, assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, helped bring the film to Salt Lake. “The project meshes with my research interests — women and minorities in communication history — and I thought the community would appreciate the opportunity to see the documentary,” says Magnun. “I’m really looking forward to watching “Las Abuelas” with the audience, and to facilitating a question-and-answer session with Tuggle following the documentary.”

The screening is free and open to the public. It is cosponsored by the University of Utah departments of Communication, Languages and Literature, and Latin American Studies Program.