Unser America

Unser America
Made in Switzerland / 2005 / 35mm / 84 min / German, Spanish s.-t. French and English
Contact: [director] Kristina Konrad, Hufelandstraße 42, 10407 Berlin, Allemagne. T: +49 30 42 85 64 09 F: +49 30 42 85 64 11 | konrad@weltfilm.com | www.weltfilm.com

The next film I got to see this evening was Unser America, by Kristina Konrad. This was a “where are they now?” kind of documentary, but of a very particular sort. The filmmaker was one of many Europeans who went to Nicaragua to support the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s. While she was there she met many people, and produced and directed documentaries about the Sandinistas (with Gabrielle Baur).

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At one point back in the 80s, she had taken a photo of two young women in an all-female Sandinista unit. This documentary is her trip back to Nicaragua, tracking down the women and looking at how the country has changed since the Sandinistas lost power in 1990.

This is a depressing film, for it is a film of dreams crushed. Or perhaps more sadly, not so much crushed as consigned to the “unrealistic” category. Most of the people Konrad interviews remember the revolution as a great time, a time of heroism and hope. What followed – while not as bad as Somoza – was an incredible let-down. There was a feeling of “so many sacrifices, and for what?” But as one interviewee pointed out, they were not sacrifices, they were decisions: a part of life. Or as another one said: these were the great deeds of her life, the things to be proud of.

Perhaps worst of all, the time when the Sandinistas were a real revolutionary force and people were resisting imperialism seems about as real to the young people as dinosaurs or knights in shining armour. One of the women’s sons says “It was a good cause but war is bad.” Another says “Instead of investing in war it would have been better to invest in other things.” As if the country had not been attacked by imperialism – in the form of the contra mercenary army armed and financed by the United States. As if what had happened in Nicaragua was just people not willing to get along – equally guilty on all sides.

In the question and answer period after the movie, Konrad made an important observation. She explained that in her eyes the revolution was most important for women because it was only with the revolution that they were able to gain certain freedoms, and that this has not been completely lost. (She did clarify that it was also important for men, it is just that she felt women got the most out of it.)

This is a recurring theme, that i hope to explore more within this blog (and elsewhere): the way that revolutions have gender, and that they mean different things for men than for women.

While a very sad movie, Unser America was also a very good movie. I would strongly recommend it, especially to those who are interested in women’s participation in anti-imperialist struggles.

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