Corporate Accountability review – collaboration with Argentinian state terror exposed

Jonathan Perel’s low-key doc focuses on the companies, still in business, which collaborated with the killings and torture that followed 1976 coup

Jonathan Perel has made a stealthily powerful one-man documentary about corporate involvement in human rights atrocities during Argentina’s military dictatorship after the 1976 coup. It’s an account of how companies assisted in state terror: the kidnap, torture and murder of employees considered subversive, mostly trade unionists or political activists.

Perel’s approach is startlingly – almost maddeningly – plain. Like a private detective, he parks his car outside 25 companies exposed by a 2005 government report about corporate accountability and the repression of workers during the regime. Over the footage he films from his car documenting the mundane comings and goings outside the buildings today, Perel calmly reads extracts from the report’s case studies.

Each study begins the same way, with a number: how many workers at the company were murdered, “disappeared” or arrested. The pattern is strikingly familiar: bosses identified undesirable employees who were then arrested at work or at home. Some survivors testified to being interrogated by military personnel holding their company file. Victims were often tortured on company premises or driven off to detention centres in company vehicles. Some businesses benefited during the dictatorship by having their private debt transferred to the state, or increased their profits by repressing the workforce.

There is nothing remotely graphic here and no detail about what happened to the victims. Nothing about the disappearances on “death flights”, where people were pushed alive from military planes above the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean. The film’s meditative style is slow and patience-testing: no explainers or background information about the coup or dictatorship. But Perel’s surveillance footage becomes increasingly sinister, and the repetition is gripping in its way. You begin to wonder at the scale of this, how it’s possible that so many people were capable of actively participating in murder and torture on this scale; human rights groups put the total number killed at 30,000.

• Corporate Accountability is available from 13 October on Mubi.

Contributor

Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
One in a Thousand review – Argentinian teen’s hoop dreams, hanging out and hoping
Clarisa Navas’ film is a confident, visually engaging romance conjuring a world of teenage waiting and wanting

Peter Bradshaw

18, Jun, 2021 @2:43 PM

Article image
Orione review – deconstructed police-shooting documentary
From police footage to autopsy room, Toia Bonino presents a mosaic of troubling scenes to tell the story of a young man killed in a Buenos Aires barrio

Peter Bradshaw

22, Nov, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
La Flor review – 13 thrilling hours of lovers, spies and scorpions
Six stories featuring the same four actors unfold in inventive and exasperating style in an arthouse ultramarathon

Phil Hoad

12, Sep, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
A Common Crime review – chilling ghost story with a social conscience
A career woman is haunted by a teenager she could have saved from death in this masterful political thriller from Argentina

Peter Bradshaw

06, Apr, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Azor review – eerie conspiracy thriller about the complacency of the super-rich
Andreas Fontana’s debut feature is an unnervingly subtle drama about a Swiss private banker visiting clients in Argentina during the period of the military junta and ‘disappearances’

Peter Bradshaw

13, Oct, 2021 @9:40 PM

Article image
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet review – a mini masterwork
A health crisis turns a series of odd vignettes into an enigmatic wonder as one man and his dog navigate a mysterious world

Peter Bradshaw

18, May, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Again Once Again review – elegant meditation on the pains of motherhood
This engaging film unpicks the challenges faced by a young mother trying to reconnect with the life she had before her son’s birth

Cath Clarke

29, Jul, 2020 @11:00 AM

Article image
Murder Me, Monster review – a grisly mystery that stays boldly unsolvable
This convention-defying horror has Guillermo del Toro’s vision and David Lynch’s dreamlike logic. But what does it all mean?

Phil Hoad

03, Dec, 2020 @7:00 AM

Argentinian press review
Had it not been so distracted by events in Iraq and Iran this week, the world would have witnessed Argentina's new government taking its first tentative steps on to the world stage.

Sam Jones

18, Jun, 2003 @1:27 AM

Article image
Cielo review – love letter to the desert’s starry skies
Alison McAlpine’s documentary draws out tales from locals and astronomers to evoke the magic and mystery of Chile’s stargazing hotspot

Cath Clarke

22, Apr, 2021 @10:12 PM