NN by Héctor Gálvez - Cartagena International Film Festival 2015
Thursday 9 April 2015, by
The title of Héctor Gálvez’s second feature film refers to the shorthand used to designate unidentified bodies, in this case, the unclaimed remains of a man exhumed by a team of forensic pathologists in Peru.Team leader Fidel is intrigued by an unspoilt black and white photograph of a young woman found in the pocket of the shirt worn by the victim and sets out to uncover his identity.
The film is a muted, restrained and touching ode to the nameless victims of state-sanctioned brutality in 1980s Peru, the left-wing guerillas and civilians “disappeared” by the country’s military. Behind Fidel’s methodical, clinical approach to the task at hand, the silent tears and contained emotions, is a palpable undercurrent of anger and frustration at the long-standing injustice and the indignity suffered by the families of the victims.
The story is a seemingly simple, straightforward affair, with barely any geopolitical exposition, historical context, or character background. But much of the impact of the film lies both in its subtle, quiet touches-Fidel talking on the phone, walking past a wall covered in endless photographs of those that were “disappeared”-and in Fidel’s emotional unravelling. Dispassionately unearthing and assessing remains, he grows increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress of the mass crimes trials and in his personal quest to trace the girl in the photograph and finally identify the body. He is left visibly shaken when a domestic worker shows up and claims the body that she believes is that of her husband who went missing in 1988, although she doesn’t recognise the girl in the photograph and her descriptions of her husband’s clothes don’t match those found on the body. Torn between his work ethic and pity for the woman, an increasingly tormented Fidel faces a tussle with his conscience.
NN is an unfussy, moving and compassionate addition to an eclectic body of work exploring Latin America’s murky past and the issue of the “disappeared” victims of military dictatorships and campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s, in which the shadow of past injustices and grievances looms constantly over its present.
NN premiered at the Rome Film Festival in 2014 and was recently screened at the Cartagena International Film Festival 11-17 March 2015.