The Official Story is a 1985 film from Argentina directed by Luis Puenzo.
Buenos Aires, 1983. Argentina has been ruled by a military junta for seven years in what is euphemistically called the National Reorganization Process. The state has gone on a ruthless campaign of violence and murder against what it regards as subversive elements. At least ten thousand and possibly as maybe as 30,000 people have been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Argentine government.
Alicia and Roberto are an upper-middle-class couple in their late forties. She's a schoolteacher and he is a government bureaucrat, or in other words, exactly the sort of placid bourgeoisie that make no trouble for the dictatorship. Their little family is rounded out by a daughter, Gaby, who is five. Alicia and Roberto adopted Gaby as an infant after Alicia proved unable to conceive.
Alicia's childhood friend, Ana, returns to Argentina after years in exile. Ana wasn't even a subversive—she simply lived with one for a while—but she tells Alicia a terrifying story of her kidnapping, brutal torture, and rape at the hands of the secret police. Worst of all, for Alicia at least, Ana tells her something very disturbing: pregnant women in the hands of the secret police routinely had their babies taken away from them after birth. Alicia, whose daughter was obtained directly from the hospital in an adoption where money changed hands, starts having some troubling doubts about just how she and Roberto acquired little Gaby.
Production on this film began immediately after the military junta was toppled in the fall of 1983.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Gaby's biological parents had this, being close to one another since childhood and gotten married in their late teens.
- Cool Teacher: Benitez, the literature teacher, who's kind of a hippie. He has raucous readings of the works he and his students are studying. With a total lack of shame he asks Alicia if she'd like to have an affair.
- Diegetic Switch: A scene with Gaby singing Argentinian children's song "En el País de Nomeacuerdo" then cuts to a singer singing it on the soundtrack.
- Foreshadowing: An early dinner scene with family and friends leads to Alicia's sister, whom Alicia dislikes, needling her about Gaby's birth, leading Alicia to talk to her husband about how Gaby was adopted.
- Freeze-Frame Ending: The film ends with a freeze-frame on Gaby in a rocking chair at her (adoptive) grandparents' house.
- Heel Realization: Alicia has this for herself, and in a larger sense for all the complacent apolitical people in Argentina, when she realizes that the child she adopted was forcibly snatched from a woman who was abducted, and probably murdered, by the secret police.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Roberto says something mean about how Ana had her time in a concentration camp coming because she once cohabitated with a subversive named Pablo—except that Alicia never told him about the Pablo story. Alicia is immediately suspicious. It's implied that Roberto was the one who informed on Ana to the authorities.
- Mama Bear: Gaby's biological grandmother is this, trying to to reunite with her grandchild (who wasn't born when the woman's daughter and son in law were taken) and she is involved in the real life Madres de Plaza de Mayo (an organization of women who were fighting for information about the deaths and kidnappings of their children).
- Mood Whiplash: Alicia and Ana are swilling wine and giggling as they reminisce about times past. The mood quickly becomes much darker when Alicia asks about why Ana went away, and Ana starts spilling the beans about her abduction, torture, and rape by the state police.
- No Ending: Alicia confronts Roberto directly about her suspicions concerning Gaby. He hits her. She leaves the house. The last shot is Gaby at the home of Roberto's parents. Do Alicia and Roberto break up? Who gets custody of Gaby? Will Gaby get sent back to her blood relations?
- Police State: Argentina under the military junta, where the local Gestapo is murdering people by the thousands.
- Rule of Symbolism: We never see the actual State Sec on the screen. But there is a scene at Gaby's birthday party, where she's back in her room in bed cuddling with her doll. The boys at the party kick the door to her bedroom in, and barge into her room shooting their toy guns. Gaby is scared to death. It's all very symbolic.
- Stern Teacher: Alicia, in contrast to Benitez the cool teacher. She teaches history and she will brook no nonsense. When the most leftist student in class justifies not citing sources in his paper because "history is written by murderers", Alicia calmly says that he has to get his info out of books.
- Unperson: What the Argentine secret police does to its victims, simply snatching them away forever. Nothing was ever learned of the two victims who probably were Gaby's parents. Two of Roberto's colleagues disappear over the course of the movie, and his supervisor, an unnamed General, is stressed. The American guy's Argentine wife also turns up missing.
- Who Watches the Watchmen?: When a hopelessly naive Alicia asks if Ana reported the horrors she endured in police custody, she simply says "And to whom would I have reported it?"
- Would Hit a Girl: Roberto is pretty stressed. When Alicia tells him Gaby isn't there and says "How does it feel not knowing where your child is?", he snaps. Gaby is actually staying with Roberto's parents but that doesn't stop Roberto from punching Alicia in the face and then smashing her fingers in the door jamb.