Ojos Que No Ven (2003)

 “One corrupt government is over and you want another scoundrel for president?”

In 2000, secret videotapes showing the corrupt activities of Montesinos, the long-time head of Peru’s Intelligence Service were broadcast on Peru’s only independent news channel. Montesinos, who attended the notorious U.S. School of the Americas (AKA Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), virtually ran Peru under its Premier Alberto Fujimora. Montesinos made literally thousands of secret videotapes of himself meeting and bribing various politicians, journalists, and television station owners, and Montesinos also supervised the secret death squad known as the Colina Group.

ojosThe film, Ojos Que No Ven weaves six interconnected stories against the backdrop of the tainted and troubled political scene in Peru. While this is not an overtly political film, the plot illustrates the moral decay which permeates Peruvian society, and shows how a handful of Peruvian citizens are affected by the Montesinos scandal and the subsequent downfall of Fujimora’s government.

When the film begins, two elderly patients in a decaying Peruvian hospital watch a television station that broadcasts the first of the Montesinos tapes. Their medical conditions enforce their stationary observations as the political scandal unfolds and the country collapses. One of the elderly men is visited by his innocent granddaughter, Mercedes (Melania Urbina). In the political fallout from the Montesinos scandal, Mercedes’ father is arrested, and she seeks help from the decadent, corrupt lawyer, Federico Penaflor (Gustavo Bueno).

Meanwhile, with the government in freefall, it’s still not clear how far investigations of various atrocities will go. Chauca (Carlos Alcantara), a petty criminal and a member of the Colina Group participates in yet another politically motivated killing, and when things go wrong, he’s on the run with his girlfriend, a make-up artist who works for a self-focused newscaster, Gonzalo (Paul Vega).

In another thread, an introverted, round-shouldered minor clerk rooms with a poverty-stricken family, and he idolizes the nasty daughter from afar. The clerk is a Walter Mitty type with an inner film noir dialogue, and he seems impervious to his idol’s rough rejections. The clerk’s employment brings him into contact with the Montesinos videotapes, and ironically this contact yields an opportunity for corruption and possible success in his courtship. Paradoxically, however, it’s clear that the clerk’s opportunity for corruption and successful courtship will inevitably yield only grief.

In another connected story, an army colonel (Gianfranco Brero) who faces scandal and imprisonment contemplates suicide until he runs into the wife of a murdered man.

At 150 minutes, the film Ojos Que No Ven (AKA What the Eye Doesn’t See) weaves together its many interconnected stories. The socio-political merit of the film, however, is somewhat weakened by several elements–the character of the clerk, and the apparent moral transformation of the army colonel, for example–are the poorer facets of the film. Nonetheless, if you like Latin cinema, and you enjoy a politically-driven story, Ojos Que No Ven from director Francisco J. Lombardi is well worth watching. In Spanish with English subtitles.

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Filed under Peruvian, Political/social films

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