From May 19 on Netflix you can see the second documentary that bears the seal of Alejandro Hartmann, in the direction and Vanessa Ragone, in the production. Impossible not to associate this new creation of theirs, entitled The photographer and the postman: the crime of Cabezas, with the previous Carmel: Who killed María Marta? (2020). Both show seriousness in documentation and research, displaying many unknown voices (See Box). In this case there are no chapters, because it is a movie and the story is concentrated in just 105 minutes.
—What are the exclusive testimonials you got for the film?
ALEJANDRO HARTMANN: For example, the secretary of the court, Mariano Cazeaux (Guarantees Judge of Dolores) had never spoken before. After the case, he had internal problems in justice. He also had a great need to speak, especially to tell about the figure of judge José Luis Macchi (NdR passed away in 2018) since he considered him his mentor. He was a great judge and carried out the case despite the political storm. Cazeaux revealed to us the judicial framework in a very effective way.
VANESSA RAGONE: Also Dr. Alejandro Vecchi (prosecuting attorney for the Cabezas family). It was he who wrote the books (The crime of Cabezas: radiography of the mafia country and The usual suspects) that led me to propose to Alejandro (Hartmann) to make the film. Vecchi had never before given interviews with such detail, length and depth. He was always very close to the family of José Luis Cabezas and gave us very relevant information.
H: Gabriel Michi (journalist and friend of Cabezas), Alejandro Vecchi and Mariano Cazeaux are the ones who lead the film, almost the voice of it. I think that Gabriel, who had spoken a lot, recounts very strong moments here, this is already part of his life. Without a doubt, former Governor Eduardo Duhalde was the pearl. It is clear -something that I at least did not have so at the beginning of the investigation- that it was the centrality of Duhalde in this story. By chance, that day he passed by and was one of the first people who saw the car still smoking and later became involved in the cause. I think seeing everything together is strong.
—In the previous documentary, in the last chapter the phrase is said: “If there is no justice, let there be truth.” Is it current?
H: The particularity of the Cabezas case, unlike that of María Marta, is that justice acted. There was a trial, the sentences were handed down and then the things that happen in Argentina happen. The Chamber of Appeals and the Appraisal Chamber appear with the different judicial tricks and it is diluted. Our country is a bit bittersweet on these issues. We are one of the few countries that judged its genocide. We have many things to be proud of and at other times we have attitudes towards the law and doing justice that are problematic. We operate on two levels. We are not as bad as it seems. There was a trial, those responsible were brought to court, they were sentenced, they were in jail and then what happened happened. That is why we must continue to remember all this history and ask for justice.
How much did it cost to make this documentary film?
A: I don’t have the exact numbers, but it was a very important production with archive material, weeks of filming and a lot of production, editing and editing for more than seven months in the middle of the pandemic (started in April 2021). It is not frequent for the documentaries that we have been making with the support of INCAA. The collaboration, the screen and the involvement of Netflix allowed us to do it this way. The production values are of a high stand.
—The film premiered in April at the 23rd Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI). How was the reaction of the public?
H: It was very strong to see her in the cinema, and to feel that what had happened to me was happening to an entire audience. The applause took a while to arrive, because the story is so shocking and dramatic, not only does it talk about the personal and tragic course of Cabezas, but it also shows a country and a complex moment that is why people are captured for a while. Many were moved. I experienced the strongest on the day of the presentation with the words of Gabriel Michi. I think we did a decent job.
A: I had spectators behind me that I heard crying throughout the entire movie. Then, at the end, that silence appeared, it was almost a minute of homage to Cabezas. I received a lot of thanks for having told in order a story that was known by bits, and that was being forgotten. It was a responsibility to do it looking to be consistent.
—Whose idea was it to show how photos were developed in those years?
H: It was part of my job to define the aesthetic. There was a reference that I took from a movie that Vanessa had told me about: The Year We Lived in Peril by Peter Weir. Similar situations appear there, although it is from 1982. It is complicated in documentaries to represent situations that you do not have. You have to provide them with interesting visual moments. José Luis Cabezas revealed something, that’s why we put how the photographs were developed at that time, in laboratories or dark rooms.
A: For me it was going back to the smells of my childhood. We set up a real lab. Since my father was a photojournalist, Carlos Ragone from El Litoral de Santa Fe and my mother, Georgina Marasco, had a children’s column there. At the time that crime occurred, it was very moving for me and my family. Added to Dr. Vecchi’s books, this quarter of a century since the murder, plus the young people around us at the production company Haddock Films who are informed, but did not fully know the case. They repeat “Don’t forget about Heads” but without knowing how it had been. We wanted to keep the memory alive. I felt it necessary and we found the resources to do it.
—As a film teacher: what would you say to someone who wants to be a documentary filmmaker?
A: I think ABC is similar to someone who wants to be a journalist. You have to have a passion for the topic you are going to deal with, strong motivation and a real interest. The projects are long, we started two or three years ago with the Cabezas Case. You also have to have empathy and sensitivity to connect with people. Even when you want to claim something, there must be a personal contact. You can’t make a documentary closed in on yourself, you have to go look for the history of others.
H: I would add that you have to have an interest in telling stories, a documentary is cinema, it is audiovisual and there must be a story of reality.
The other voices present
In the documentary film The Photographer and the Postman: The Crime of Cabezas there are, among others, the testimonies of Oscar Andreani (businessman), Raúl Aragón (political consultant and Public Opinion analyst), Osvaldo Baratucci (president of the Association of Reporters Graphics of the Argentine Republic), Miguel Gaya (ARGRA lawyer), Cora Gamarnik (Photojournalism teacher and researcher), Ricardo Ragendorfer (journalist who, together with José Luis Cabezas, had put together the cover of the magazine Noticias sobre la Maldita Policia), Lorena Maciel (correspondent who covered the case), inspector commissioner Dr. Jorge Gómez Pombo, Manuel Lazo (journalist who broke the news of Yabrán’s suicide), Eduardo Longoni (graphic reporter), Hugo Ropero (Head of Photography at Noticias magazine) and Julio Menajovsky (photographer).
There are two times in the documentary, past and present, in the latter neither the widow of José Luis Cabezas -María Cristina Robledo, who currently lives in the Canary Islands- nor that of his sister, Gladys Cabezas, appears. Alejandro Hartmann answers: “Both were summoned. We chatted several times with the sister, Gladys, who preferred not to be there. Also with the widow, María Cristina, who confirmed to me that she did not want to continue with the past. She doesn’t usually appear, but they both enabled us to work with footage and she was strong enough to include them. Each one has her fight and in the case of Gladys she wants to continue to end impunity”.
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