The youngest of three sisters whose leftist parents were arrested and “disappeared” during the course of Argentina’s late-’70s dirty war, Albertina Carri boldly plunges into the murky depths of her own—and the national—past with The Blonds.
Neither documentary nor psychodrama, Carri’s film is a mysterious combination of the two. (In that it resembles two other recent Film Forum attractions, Amie Siegel’s Empathy and Pearl Gluck’s Divan.) What’s remarkable about The Blonds is how it continually thwarts generic expectations. Carri interviews neighbors with no interest in her family’s fate beyond establishing their own exoneration. She records her parents’ old comrades on videotape but uses the material for little more than secondhand accounts of the detention center where her parents were confined and presumably executed.
The Blonds, which is mainly concerned with the ways in which the unknown past informs the inchoate present, has affinities to E.L. Doctorow’s novelized rumination on the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, The Book of Daniel. Similar conflicts churn the surface here. Carri’s sisters refuse to speak on camera. Mysterious forces must vet the project, and the filmmaker responds with her own form of subterfuge. She employs a stand-in for herself and occasionally dramatizes childhood fantasies with animated Lego tableaux. In the end, this Borgesian hall of mirrors is a clutter of recollections and inconclusive interviews that suggests the impossibility of getting at any representational truth.
Tripping over fragments of fragments, Carri searches through thickets of fantasy and memory for a narrative line. Her parents were called “los rubios” (the blonds). But why? Was any member of the family blond? Whose memories are whose? The weather is always overcast in this engaging expression of moody bafflement. The Blonds is unpretentiously poetic and casually stylish, yet perversely precise. Reconstructing the past, Carri seems to suggest, is akin to grabbing the water in a flowing stream.