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A Twelve-Year Night (La noche de 12 años)

I came upon this movie due to an Independent Study about the Southern Cone dictatorships and music through activism.  It was released in 2018.  It is a true story about the Tupamaros, a radical left-wing group, their resistance against the government, and their 12-year incarceration as a result.  This film follows their twelve years of being physically and mentally tortured and isolated, moving from jail to jail around the country.    


We follow three members of the Tupamaros – José Mujica, Mauricio Rosencof, and Eleuterio Huidobro.  All friends and leaders of the group were captured under very violent conditions, but after sustaining serious gunshot wounds, they faced their worst fate: solitary confinement in a prison cell.  These cells were sometimes small with no basic commodities.  If there was a window, the soldiers covered it up, so the prisoners were in eternal darkness.  They were beaten, urinated on, had their faces covered with gasoline, and starved.  They weren’t given showers or new clothes unless they had visitors, which was rare.  Speaking of which, when their parents and loved ones could find out which jail they were in, the soldiers would shower and dress the prisoners so that they looked like they were taken care of.  They would keep the visits short, and then shortly after would move the prisoners to a new prison so that their families couldn’t come and visit them again.   


There are a few moments of hope in the film, but they are fleeting.  The ending, however, is quite promising, as the prisoners are released when the dictatorship falls.  We learn why the movie focused on these three men, as they’ve had brilliant success since in their lives.  José Mujica became president, Mauricio Rosencof, a playwriter, was the Director of Culture of Montevideo and Eleutero Huidobro was Minister of Defense.  To see these men who were treated like animals rise and give back to their country is inspirational.   


I teach this movie in Spanish 4 when we cover the unit El valor de las ideas and talk about human rights.  In this unit, we also review the present and past subjunctive and then I show this movie in small parts in class, and afterwards, ask students to write a review about the film using what we’ve covered in class and their observations during the film (they take notes while they watch).  Two particular scenes are extremely violent (during the captures), and I warn them so they can choose to leave the room).  In the reviews, students share the story and their reactions to it.  Through this, I was able to see how in-depth their observations were – from the camera angles to the music and lyrics linked to the scenes, the symbolism with the use of colors contrasted to black, etc.  While the students found that certain scenes were hard to watch, they very much enjoyed the film and researched the characters and read about them on their own, because they were so invested in the characters, as this is based on a true story.  They also looked up how many awards the film won, feeling that it should have won more.  Due to the difficult current climate with DEI, I asked the students candidly if I should take this film out of the curriculum, and they all stated no, because it was so necessary to see the cruelty and to learn the valuable lesson, that two wrongs do not equal a right.  While the Tupamaros were not innocent in their actions against the government, the treatment in prison was far worse.  Was it necessary?   


This movie is part of a unit that I have designed, so if you are a teacher looking to use this, please visit this link here with access to all the other materials used before viewing this film.    



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