by Dhruv Goyal Featured Film

Every Document of Civilization — Tatiana Mazú González [FIDMarseille ’24 Review]

July 5, 2024

The haunting lack of something or someone is ever-present in Tatiana Mazú González’s Every Document of Civilization. We first hear two female voices — presumably González’s and her subject’s — preparing for an interview centered around the woman’s son. But they can’t seem to find a “beginning” to her version of his story. Neither, seemingly, can filmic images: the screen remains blank as González tries to understand what approach suits her interviewee best. Once the narration stops, though, we get two establishing shots that, on the one hand, clearly mimic the POV of someone staring out into the distance through their window, but also make you realize the framing around said window. The low-intensity blur filter, in particular, noticeably fuzzies the edges of the image, distorting its otherwise sharp, documentarian naturalism; there isn’t any voiceover here to explain its overt construction away. Then, hard cut to concrete clarity — a document titled “General Paz Avenue: Design and Layout,” published in 1936. What does this have to do with the boy’s story though? Still, no voiceover. Then, a series of nighttime establishing shots, presumably of this avenue and of the “District of La Matanza.” Why? Still no voiceover. 15 minutes pass before we finally hear Mónica Raquel Alegre begin to detail the tragic story of her teenage son, Luciano Arrugo, tortured before being forced to disappear and killed by the Buenos Aires state police. But now, the accompanying images disappear into the darkness.

This constant disjunct between image and sound is, in many ways, representative of the distance between Luciano and his mother, reality and remembrance. González recognizes this and utilizes it to its fullest in the film’s opening 45 minutes: the lack of logical explanation for its repetitive, disruptive, and at times boldly fantastical form feels like the most natural embodiment of unimaginable, almost unrepresentable personal grief that endures. The remaining 45 minutes require González and her subject, Mónica, to move out of this dark, though, closer to a space where one can at least see the possibility of reconciliation — between image and sound, reality and remembrance. This push toward bright light, through collective resistance against the Stat, is less believable, but that’s also because González realizes that doing so does not alleviate the pain already inflicted. The lack feels permanent in Every Document of Civilization, then. At least much more so than civility.

Published as part of FIDMarseille 2024: Dispatch 2.