The Fall of Fujimori is more—or less—than the flip side to last week’s Film Forum Peru primer State of Fear: It’s a prismatic shudder, a maddening manifestation of historical ambivalence. Many serious docs could cover the last 25 years of Peruvian history and each come up with an individuated perspective. The reason for this hall-of-mirrors record-keeping is obvious: Thanks to the Shining Path terrorists and the violent response they elicited from three presidencies, everybody’s wrong means anybody’s right. The only sane people in the entire nation then were the silent majority—the victims of the “low-intensity” warfare as well as the economic rape that created it.
State of Fear, though concerned with Peru’s criminal levels of poverty, only glancingly explores its foundations; Ellen Perry’s film evades the matter. The IMF isn’t mentioned once, although its intervention is what allowed Alberto Fujimori to plundercratize the country in his efforts toward “security.” The narrator mentions a mid-Fujimori-tenure “economic boom,” but, tellingly, enforced privatization and the resulting acceleration of poverty instead incited the population to protest dictatorship by the tens of thousands.
The Fall of Fujimori is more concerned with the personal experience of amoral power. With the man’s cooperation, Perry trails after Fujimori during his exile in Japan (he’s since been arrested in Chile) and interviews him about his reign from his gently, modestly expressed point of view. It’s an astonishing story we heard precious little of in American media, including (in addition to the assassinations, disappearances, and arbitrary imprisonments) the revolt of Fujimori’s own wife, who accused him of the minor scandal that precipitated Fujimori’s 1992 “self-coup.” She also ran against him, while they were co-habitating, in 1995. The absurd dramatics continued into 2000, when right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos’s videotapes of briberies were broadcast and Fujimori embarked on a completely televised “chase” to find his henchman, who’d jumped ship in the night.
Perry may seem a little Stockholm syndromed after riding in Fujimori’s limo, attributing 35,000 murders to his adversaries Shining Path, as compared to
State of Fear‘s rough 10K. (Nobody knows exactly who is responsible for what number of corpses, but the 2003 Truth Commission attributes 12K to Shining Path.) Her film remains an intriguing portrait, even if its accep- tance of Fujimori’s shrugging demeanor and blame- storming serve to detour our concern from its proper place: the Indians who were routed, were shot, and disappeared by both sides of the struggle and by Fujimori’s covert forces after Peru’s terrorist threat had evaporated. In the end, the movie is a commitment to the politics of personality, not of people.