Anything for any cause

The following in no way intends to demean documentary film as something less than (that misnomer) narrative film. With that out of the way, Ibolya Fekete’s film Chico seems to blur the line separating the two quite intentionally. This sort of thing is to be expected in an age when boundaries are meant to be blurred as much as possible. In this case, there appears to be a clear-cut case of a “true story” that a filmmaker needed to fictionalize, and yet very much not fictionalize. The film opens with a strange kind of statement to the effect of, this film is about real persons and real events, but some persons and events are fictional, therefore everything is fictional. Ignoring the logical crime against humanity that this patently post-modern introduction commits, a disregard for the truth concerning Eduardo Rózsa Flores, a man who devoted his life to fighting (literally) for the oppressed and ended up murdered for it is in the end a slap in the face to that life. This is sadly the case even when, as in this film, the man plays himself (having been filmed eight years before his murder).

No shalam, no shalom

Chico presents itself as the opposite of The Motorcycle Diaries both in form and in purpose. The latter film was a non-documentary shot in a fairly traditional style, giving an account of the formative years of Che Guevara’s life before his rise to power. Wanting to be true, it didn’t insist that its form demand complete credulity. Wanting to give its audience the whiff of a legend or a myth, the hero is often juxtaposed with soaring landscapes and lost in larger crowds. In Chico, we are told that the story is quite fictional, but the hero plays himself (not an option in Che’s case) and the form heavily mimics documentary, because despite the opening intertitle, in many ways it is a documentary. Flores is given lots of closeups, and the camera follows him around as documentary cameras tend to follow around their subjects: implying a god-like image to them and bending the knee of every element of the film to Flores.

No view interview

The objection at this point will be that the man fought long and hard for a righteous cause (or causes) and shouldn’t be so dismissed on account of the film about him. One gets the feeling watching this film, however, that the film either fatally undermines or fatally exposes exactly what Flores stood for. In post-film interviews with him, Flores says that he was never attached to any particular cause, only to the oppressed. Whether he was conscious of that being a cause is open to question. True, oppression is bad. Suppression, however, is often quite good. A recent arrest in Denver was an act of suppressing a dangerous ideology from committing destructive acts. It’s unclear how a man like Flores can distinguish between oppression and suppression when he concedes that he has no legs to stand on, no cause to fight for. Perhaps he is the victim of repression. This is not unlikely, since Chico takes pains to begin the story when he is a boy, showing the family into which he was born and following him to numerous countries, often with no clue as to what he was doing or why. Flores seemed to pride himself on not committing to a single set of beliefs. Instead, he fought as hard as he could in the manner best suited to him based on where he was at a given time. Even in Israel his religious diversity is displayed both at the Weeping Wall and in a Roman Catholic cathedral. As his father asked him over the phone early in the film concerning communism and fascism, which will it be? (Pics grabbed from here.)


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