If not conceived as an object lesson for post-911 America, Pamela Yates' documentary about the Republic of Peru's two-decade degeneration into a police state via a war on civil terrorism that claimed 70,000 lives and eroded the survivors' civil liberties nonetheless demands to be read as one. Peru's troubles began long before professor of philosophy Manuel Ruben Abimael Guzman Reynoso began fomenting revolution in Ayacucho, a small city in the central Andes. Peru's democratic government effectively served only half its population, the descendents of Spaniards concentrated in cosmopolitan Lima; the country's indigenous Indians, segregated in the mountains and jungles, remained politically disenfranchised and mired in desperate poverty. Inspired by China's People's Revolution, Guzman established the left-wing movement Sendero Luminoso "Shining Path" whose name echoed Peruvian Communist Party founder Jose Carlos Mariategui's declaration that "Marxism-Leninism is the shining path of the future," recruiting followers from the rural poor and using guerilla violence to demoralize and undermine the government. Presidents Fernando Belaunde Terry (1980-85) and Alan Garcia Perez (1985-90) responded with an ever-escalating military force that turned rural Peru into a war zone. Spanish-speaking government soldiers had no common ground with locals, who spoke Quechua and other indigenous tongues; unable to distinguish civilians from guerillas, they committed atrocities that further undermined support for the central government. Journalists trying to document the carnage were actively discouraged and, worse, ignored, until Guzman ordered an assault on Lima in 1990. Unknown and politically inexperienced economist Alberto Fujimori became president in 1990 on the strength of promises to restore civil and economic order; he dissolved Congress, appointed gangster Vladimiro Montesinos his chief advisor, bribed the press, created death squads to kidnap, torture, rape and murder anyone who opposed his policies, and employed spin doctors to sell his version of events, even after the Lima police arrested Guzman, leaving Shining Path leaderless and floundering. Fujimori took credit for Guzman's capture and disbanded the police unit responsible for his discovery and arrest. The equation between Peru's descent into a police state and the implications of post-9/11 U.S. antiterrorist policies is clear, but the impressionistic presentation actually undermines the horrifying facts and moving testimony from survivors on both sides of the conflict. Firm dates and more detailed historical background would have better served the filmmakers' purpose than their "chronological narrative relay race," which muddles an already complex situation.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: NR
- Review: If not conceived as an object lesson for post-911 America, Pamela Yates' documentary about the Republic of Peru's two-decade degeneration into a police state via a war on civil terrorism that claimed 70,000 lives and eroded the survivors' civil liberties n… (more)