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Race and Gender in the Global Hispanophone: Jennifer Alpert

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The Race and Gender in Global Hispanophone Research Group is delighted to invite you to the talk “Outside the Law: The Policial/Crime Film as a Corrective for Institutional Failures in Post-Dictatorship Argentina”. Professor Jennifer Alpert (Stanford, IDEAL Fellow) will encourage us to reflect on how movies, specifically those focused on crime and law enforcement, serve as a mode of expressing national traumas caused by the dictatorship, as well as a space to debate the very nature of community, the people and Justice in contemporary Argentina.

While historically Argentinean crime films/policiales have often elucidated crimes and assigned guilt for entertainment purposes, this talk argues that a pattern of films emerges in mainstream cinema that, affectively, imagines solving the State’s institutional failures in the post-dictatorship era. Without making reference to the autocratic government or the thousands of desaparecidos/disappeared, these films preserve human rights as they dramatize restitution not rooted in traditional legal procedures. Protagonists that could be considered criminals enact their own justice, allowing audiences to reinterpret their actions as a corrective for a State apparatus that failed to protect its people. Through close readings of films of the 1990s and 2000s such as Caballos Salvajes (Marcelo Piñeyro, 1995) and Al Final del Túnel (Rodrigo Grande, 2016), contextualized within newspapers, magazines, and scholarly accounts, I understand this need for justice as a symptom of a society frustrated by the failures of a legal system that did not adequately punish human rights abuses. In blurring the lines between crime and justice and under the guise of entertainment, these films provide resolution through the vicarious justice that emerges from its people rather than the judicial or penal system. In the process, retribution outside the law permits the reconstruction of families and communities that the dictatorship attempted to fragment. Justice then becomes a twofold endeavor: material and emotional. In the fictional yet vicarious attempts to deliver justice on screen and defend human rights, these films propose solutions to their characters' fight, one that mirrors the Argentinean people's own.