Kill Them All



San Sebastian International Film Festival

Esteban Schroeder and Associates

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- With this political thriller, based on the true tale of a scientist who devised ways to dispose of the political enemies of Chile's General Pinochet, Uruguayan director Esteban Schroeder records a dark chapter in South American history without turning the film into a history lessons. The polished movie should work well in Latin American and Spanish-speaking markets and at festivals where it stands on its own as a fast-paced action thriller.

Set in the aftermath of Operation Condor -- a CIA plan to collaborate with Latin American dictatorships to stop the spread of communism -- "Kill Them All" is about the secret movement by such dictatorships to eliminate its own henchmen to keep them from talking. Chilean scientist Eugenio Berrios, who researched sarin gas and other poisons for Pinochet, was kidnapped by Chilean intelligence and murdered in Uruguay in the 1990s. The fictional character of lawyer Julia discovers the kidnapping and uncovers the conspiracy behind it, alienating her military family in the process.

Julia (Roxana Blanco) is a former torture victim turned lawyer, who disregards the threats of her general father and captain brother to pursue the case. She is a nicely contradictory character, capable breaking into the house without fear one minute, then crying in terror the next. She fights against her family and struggles with her husband over her friendship with a former lover. All this takes place in the stifling world of post-dictatorship Latin America, where "fatherland," the army and police are still all powerful.

The film's key problem is why the figure of Berrios should remain important? To many, the death of this odious man at the hands of other killers may seem like a kind of ironic justice. Nevertheless, Schroeder keeps tightening the screws in this poltical thriller and his heroine is engaging enough to keep an audience intrigued.