Filmmaker Albertina Carri is the daughter of desparacidos, the disappeared, Latinos in South and Central America whose murders remain unsolved. Many were political dissidents, but scores of others were arrested and assassinated by their governments for no apparent reason. Roberto Carri, an author and academic, and his wife Ana Maria Caruso were among thousands of Argentineans who disappeared during the 1960s and 1970s. Carri was a vocal critic of Argentina's dictatorship. The filmmaker was four when her parents were arrested. Her film, The Blonds (Los Rubios), is ostensibly about her quest to reconstruct the life of the Carri family--Albertina, her two sisters and her parents--before the disappearance of Roberto and Ana Maria.
Carri begins with a shot of herself reading her father's book. Unfortunately, the audience is not let in on the joke, but there is little doubt about the filmmaker's intent: Reading her father's words is an exercise in futility. Carri does not believe she can conjure the past. The Blonds is an abstract and sometimes desperate search for identity in the absence of memory and not, as we are led to believe at the outset, an investigation into the murders of Roberto and Ana Maria. Nevertheless, Carri visits her childhood home where her parents were arrested in order to interview neighbors. She also photographs the jail cell where her parents were initially incarcerated, and goes to a government office where she subjects herself to a DNA test in order to gather information about her parents' disappearance. Very little comes of these investigations except the amusing memory of one neighbor, which is reflected in the film's title: She recalls the Carri girls as blonds. It's clear from Carri's reaction--and from the filmmaker's appearance--that they were brunettes.
In her highly experimental technique, Carri disposes of narrative and dispenses with emotion. She hires an actress (Anal"a Couceyro) to play herself. Oddly detached from her parents' fate, she skates around in her own head, asking how she is supposed to know who she is when she remembers so little of where she came from. While that seems like a subject suited to filmmaking, in Carri's mind it is interwoven with the actual making of the film and the identity which emerges from it. The making of the film, in other words, is the process of constructing memory--or at least that's the conclusion Carri arrives at. How she gets there is the problem: The Blonds is by turns frenetic and peevish. Carri jumps from one thought to another without resolution, the whole time lamenting that she is unable to distinguish her memories from those she's been given by others.
The Blonds will undoubtedly appeal to the twenty-something viewers who have no memory of the despots and who wish to make the world in their own image. While Carri's desire not to remember seems callous, she convincingly insists that what her own psyche creates, and what is created in the psyche of others--in the end, she dons a blonde wig--is as real as any historical event. She's an empiricist; she is interested in matter, in technique, in the content of the frame, and in the movement of the camera. In that sense, the film possesses a certain lan, but Carri's refusal to suffer, to confront her own emptiness, is what finally renders The Blonds jejune, nihilistic and utterly unsatisfying.