Rethinking Testimonial Cinema in Postdictatorship Argentina
Beyond Memory Fatigue
Published by: Indiana University Press
For roughly two decades after the collapse of the military regime in 1983, testimonial narrative was viewed and received as a privileged genre in Argentina. Today, however, academics and public intellectuals are experiencing "memory fatigue," a backlash against the concepts of memory and trauma, just as memory and testimonial films have reached the center of Argentinian public discourse. In Rethinking Testimonial Cinema in Postdictatorship Argentina, Verónica Garibotto looks at the causes for this reticence and argues that, rather than discarding memory texts for their repetitive excess, it is necessary to acknowledge them and their exhaustion as discourses of the present.
By critically examining how trauma theory and subaltern studies have previously been applied to testimonial cinema, Garibotto rereads Argentinian films produced since 1983 and calls for an alternate interpretive framework at the intersection of semiotics, theories of affect, scholarship on hegemony, and the ideological uses of documentary and fiction. She argues that recurrent concepts—such as trauma, mourning, memory, and subalternity—miss how testimonial films have changed over time, shifting from subaltern narratives to official, hegemonic, and iconic accounts. Her work highlights the urgent need to continue to study these types of narratives, particularly at a time when military dictatorships have become entrenched in Latin America and memory narratives proliferate worldwide. Although Argentina is Garibotto's focus, her theory can be adapted to other contexts in which narratives about recent political conflicts have shifted from alternative versions of history to official, hegemonic accounts—such as in Spanish, Chilean, Uruguayan, Brazilian, South African, and Holocaust testimonies. Garibotto's study of testimonial cinema moves us to pursue a broader ideological analysis of the links between film and historical representation.
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: Redefining Testimonial Cinema
1. Knowledge and Feeling: Testimonial Documentary and Fiction in the 1980s
2. Indexicality and Counter-Hegemony: Testimonial Documentary in the 1990s
3. Distortion and History in Post-2000 Second-Generation Performative Documentaries
4. Emotion and History in Post-2000 Second-Generation Iconic Fictions
Afterword: From Counter-Hegemony to Hegemony
"Rethinking Testimonial Cinema proposes a renewed approach to reading the links among film, genre, and history that is particularly useful to scholars working on the filmic representation of iconic political conflicts."~Film History
"Well researched and immensely readable, Garibotto's book provides valuable insights and commentary that will also be useful for other literatures entrenched in military dictatorship."~Choice
A sophisticated discussion on the theoretical and conceptual tools that we use to understand 'narratives of the self.'" ~Jordana Blejmar, author of Playful Memories: The Autofictional Turn in Post-Dictatorship Argentina