Monday, January 1, 2018

The Messenger and the Movie

A few weeks ago, the day my wife arrived in Buenos Aires, we had the good fortune to catch one of the last local showings of Jayson McNamara’s documentary Messenger on a White Horse, about Robert Cox’s heroic editorship of the Buenos Aires Herald during the so-called “Dirty War” of 1976-83. The movie debuted last April at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, but this was our first opportunity to see it.
Given the subject matter, it’s not the sort of film that one “enjoys,” but it was an absorbing account of Argentina’s most brutal dictatorship ever and the pervasive fear that prevailed at the time. As editor of the paper, Cox pursued and publicized the human rights violations that took place after the 1976 military coup and, facing threats to himself and his family, he went into exile in 1979—at a time when the Australian McNamara was not even born. I met McNamara four years ago, in Cox’s Recoleta apartment, at a time when he was working for the then struggling Herald—which was becoming the victim of the now-jailed tax evader and casino magnate Cristóbal López.
Bob Cox and Jayson McNamara at Cox's apartment in Recoleta, 2014
Given McNamara’s youth—I don’t believe he’s even 30 yet—I was impressed with his perspective on this complex country’s history. My wife, who lived through much of the worst in that period, agreed that his usage of historical footage and his interviews (with Cox and others) evinced a genuine skill for thorough and honest storytelling.

Some days later, when my wife and I shared empanadas and a bottle of Malbec with Cox and his wife Maud, both expressed admiration of the filmmaker’s ability to narrate a story he never experienced personally. In my opinion, it’s something that deserves a wider audience and, according to McNamara, “We’re hoping it will soon be available on Netflix or the like.” When it is, I’ll watch it again, and encourage others to tune in. It’s not a commercial film, but it deserves the widest possible audience.

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