The documentary “Never Again”: the first time that TV showed the perspective of the victims of the Dictatorship, before the Judgment of the Juntas

The film was broadcast in 1984 on Channel 13, prior to the Trial of the Boards

The rage for the movie “Argentina, 1985″ It can be seen both in national movie theaters and among consumers on the Amazon platform. Thus, the consumption of the feature film invited a review of history and to verify how the events took place in those important years of the early recovery of democracy. Beyond the controversies due to possible omissions and historical imbalances, the merit of Santiago Miter’s film is the rescue of a very peculiar situation of a still recent past in the times of a country, and a trigger to other evocations.

For example, if we analyze the context and the conditions in which the “Judgment of the Boards”, there is an event that was hinged. The work done by the National Commission for the Disappearance of Persons (Conadep) that collected evidence and testimonies about the illegal repression. In the audiovisual field, it was translated into a television event prior to the trial and which basically meant the first television expression on the atrocities committed during the de facto government between the years 1976 and 1983.

On July 4, 1984, Channel 13, which at that time was still state-owned, broadcast the documentary “Never Again”, as an audiovisual accompaniment to the publication of the homonymous book, which was made by Conadep and which collected all the fruit of their work.

It lasts just over an hour and a half and contains the testimonies of some victims of the dictatorship, who crudely recount what they suffered during the years of terror, clandestine detentions and torture sessions.

This was the first audiovisual material that was allowed to reflect in great detail the crimes against humanity committed by the military during the Coup d’etat. Allegorical films like The official story (directed by Luis Puenzo) or The night of the pencils (Héctor Olivera) were produced that same year but just released in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Therefore, it was only possible to take magnitude of the transcendence of the content with the passage of time.

Ernesto Sábato and Raúl Alfonsín, during the presentation of Conadep

The documentary was broadcast as a special program in a space called “Open TV”, which included an introduction by the then Minister of the Interior Antonio Troccoli and a closing of the film by the same leader together with the president of Conadep, the writer Ernesto Sábato.

The broadcast was the first instance in which the mass public accessed the perspective of the victims of State terrorism from 1976-83. According to IPSA figures cited at the time by the magazine Arethe program reached 20 rating pointssome 1,640,000 viewers simultaneously.

According to investigators, until the last moment, President Raúl Alfonsín had to deal with pressure from different areas of the Armed Forces. Emilio Crenzel, author of The political history of Never Again (Siglo XXI Editores), revealed that Ernesto Sábato threatened to resign from his position as president of Conadep if the broadcast of the documentary were to be suspended.

Finally, it was broadcast during the central hours of peak daily audience (from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) and was presented without commercial breaks, something very unusual for the time.

The documentary accompanied the historic homonymous publication, produced by Conadep
The documentary accompanied the historic homonymous publication, produced by Conadep

The broadcast of “Never Again” also took place in a context of pure tension between the Government and the military leadership. In fact, one day after the film aired, Alfonsín arranged for the immediate replacement of the Chief of Staff, General Jorge Arguindeguiwho had been appointed to the post in 1983, and three other senior officers, including the commander of the imposing III Corps, based in Córdoba, General Peter Mansilla..

For a part of the military community of the time, the image that was reflected in those days was that of an Alfonsín firing the high-ranking military commanders simultaneously with the broadcast of the documentary.

Later it was learned that Alfonsín had learned of a meeting between Arguindegui and other high-ranking officers, where the possibility of his return to power in the Army had been considered.

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The documentary “Never Again”: the first time that TV showed the perspective of the victims of the Dictatorship, before the Judgment of the Juntas