Memories of Underdevelopment:
the truth of the group is in the murderer

In one of the most remarkable and remarked on sections of this Cuban film (d. Tomás Guitiérrez Alea, 1968), newsreel film and journalist photos examine the Cuban trial of prisoners captured at the Bay of Pigs invasion. With CIA support, Cuban exiles attempted to establish a beachhead on the island (in order to then call for U.S. military support to overthrow the revolution). The apparent differences of occupation and degree of involvement by the exiles in the dictatorial and corrupt Batista regime is revealed to be superficial; all are accomplices in the crimes of the past.

Entire sequence (in Spanish, no subtitles)

Just before the sequence formally begins, the film’s protagonist, Sergio begins to read to a friend from a book he bought earlier at a bookstore. The volume, Bourgeois Morality and Revolution by Leo Rozitchner, discusses the issues in terms of the trial of the captured prisoners and their statements. In the 98-shot sequence that then commences, Sergio reads interpretive passages from the book, plus there are some clips from the trial. A full description of the sequence from the continuity script (that is, based on the finished film) is available in English in Michael Chanan, ed., Memories of Underdevelopment: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Director, and Inconsolable Memories, Edmundo Desnoes, Author. (Rutgers: Rutgers Unvesity Press, 1990). This text supplants the earlier edition of the film script by Michael Myerson, which only reproduces the subtitles of the English language version of the film.

1. Title begins sequence. 
Text: the truth of the group is in the killer.
Image: prisoners taken at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón), the CIA sponsored abortive invasion of Cuba by Miami-based Cuban exiles.

2. Captured prisoner walks past camera.

3. Father Lugo.
Sergio v.o. “the priest”

4. Fabrio Freyre.
v.o. “the businessman”

5. Felipe Rivero.
v.o. “dilettante official"

6. Ramón Calviño.
v.o. “the torturer”

7. José Andreu.
v.o. “the philosopher”

8. Carlos Varona.
v.o. “the politician”

9. Prisoner.
Sergio, v.o. “…and the innumerable sons of good families.”

10. Calviño. 
Sergio, v.o., “Each one of them carried out specific duties and yet it was the whole, the group, which gave meaning to each individual activity.”

11.  Maria Elena, testifying at the trial.
“…he kicked me in the stomach and I had a hemorrhage. That wasn’t enough for him. I had to fight so they wouldn’t do that, and they broke two of my vertebrae….Do you remember?”

12. Human bones and instruments of torture on display. 
Witness v.o. “When they started hitting him with sticks, he fell on his knees and you…

13. Dictator Batista and police chief inspect confiscated weapons. 
Witness, v.o. “...kicked him in the side and he sprawled on the floor.  Don’t you remember? And after you murdered him, you violated him too, because you’re a dirty murderer.”

14. Prisoners crowded into a cell. 
Pilar, v.o. “Coward! You killed a man in front of me, I saw you!” 
Calviño v.o. “In front of you?”

15.  Corpse with throat slit.
Pilar, v.o. “After you killed Morua, nine days later, you arrested me and you sat down to tell me how you had killed him!”

16. Montage of high society in the Batista dictatorship. 
Sergio, v.o. “In all capitalist societies, there is the same type of man at the disposition of the bourgeoisie, who is in charge of such special duties.”

17.  Batista era celebrants at a party. 
Sergio, v.o. “In the division of moral work, the contract murderer allows those to exist who are not directly involved with death, and who want to display their clean souls.”

18.  Father Lugo, v.o.
“It seems as though you want to accuse me of being the originator of the invasion and all those things.”

19. A priest offers communion on a ship preceding the Bay of Pigs landing.
Father Lugo, v.o.: “I want to insist that my mission was purely spiritual.  I have never handled a weapon, before or after. The fact that one is mixed up in a conspiracy doesn’t make one a conspirator.” 

20. Two murdered women.
Sergio, v.o. “ In fact, the murderer-torturer resorts to the category of totality in order to avoid claiming moral responsibility.”

21. [Portion of an extended montage contrasting the conspirators and the victims.] Several corpses with bystanders. 
Sergio, v.o. “But in none of the cases under review was there a recovery of the true dialectical relationship between individuals and the group. The others who came with Calviño in the invasion don’t recognize themselves as part of the system which entangles them in their own acts. In the accounts of Freyre, the land baron; in the extreme unctions of Lugo, the priest; in the inheritance of the Babum brothers; in the delicate ideas of Andreu, the philosopher; in the dismissals and in the book of Rivero, the dilettante; in the 'representative democracy’ of Varona; you cannot read clearly the death that through them spread over Cuba,…”

22. “...death by hunger,…”

23. Police use firehoses against protestors. 
Sergio, v.o. “…by sickness, by torture, by frustration.” 
[Fade out]

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit:
physical assault during police interrogation

Episode: “Pandora,”  Season 4, no 15 (air date: 2/7/2003)

The SVU detectives are depicted as having to maintain strict adherence to rules while pursuing the most despicable sex offense criminals. (For example, frequent mentions  remind viewers that criminals who are guilty of sexual crimes against children are often assaulted by other prisoners when incarcerated.) A repeated subplot theme reveals that the detectives’ ability to remain dispassionate in pursuing justice is often tested against their personal history and psychology.

NYPD Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) goes to Prague (where the local police ignore child prostitution, we are told) in pursuit of Tassig, a child pornographer who has seduced a 14 year old NYC runaway. Finding the girl, he and an Interpol agent track down the molester and interrogate him in a Czech prison, hoping to find another child whose image was circulated on the internet. 

1. Referring to the runaway,
Tassig: “She’s an adventurous woman!” 
Stabler: “She’s a 14 year old girl you filmed being drugged and raped.”

2. Increasingly angry at the defiant prisoner, Stabler threatens. 
Tassig: “No! I am not a deviant!”
Stabler slams his elbow against the seated prisoner’s throat, sending the man falling backward to the floor.

3. “You can’t, it is against your laws.”
The pedophile pornographer objects that NYPD police are prohibited from harsh interrogation. The Interpol police officer remarks that such rules don’t apply since they are in the Czech Republic. (Earlier, the Interpol agent pointed out that the Czech authorities routinely ignore obvious child prostitution because it brings in sex tourism money.)

4. Taunted by the pornographer, Stabler hits the prisoner’s chest, then his stomach. He then picks up the man and slams him down on the interrogation table.

5. Shaken, the prisoner says he doesn’t know the young child, or where she is, but her name is Amy.

Back at the U.S. Embassy, a technician explains that examining Tassig’s computers they discovered a child porn site called “Amy’s Little Secret.” But to access it you need a password which is sold by a business back in New York. Stabler returns. Raiding that location, the police get a further lead to find Amy in NYC.

6. Conducting a raid, Stabler finds the child who says her father is asleep. 

7. He enters the bedroom, places his gun against the man’s forehead while ominous music plays. 

8. The prolonged tableau implies that Stabler must decide between performing his own justice by killing the man or following procedures by arresting him. He takes a deep breath, shakes his head, as if clearing his thoughts. 

9. He awakens the criminal and says the man is under arrest.

10. “Where’s my daughter?” 
Stabler pauses again, in close up,
“Where’s your daughter? Like you give a damn!” 

The bedroom scene plays out at 50 seconds; long for a normally fast-paced show. Regular viewers know that Stabler often has a deep personal edge when a case involves girl and adolescent female victims, reflecting his own situation as father of two daughters.     

Casino Royale: torture as testing the hero

Casino Royale  (d. Martin Campbell, 2006) was a deliberate attempt to re-invigorate the Bond franchise. In a familiar situation in James Bond films, Bond is held prisoner and tortured. As well noted by reviewers, this Bond film loses the high tech weapons, CGI action effects and defiance of the laws of physics for a concentration on a well-muscled man, here captured and held in a dark dungeon. Naked, Bond (Daniel Craig) is tied to a chair with the seat removed and then repeatedly struck with a knotted rope on his genitals by Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). The sexual overtones are explicit. Enduring agonizing pain, the scene ends with Bond rescued rather than himself turning the tables on his tormentor.

Body of Lies: torture as punishment

In this 2008 Ridley Scott thriller, Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an on-the-ground Middle East CIA agent who is managed by Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) back at headquarters. Assigned to track down a terrorist leader (read Bin Laden), he tries to work with Jordanian official Hani Salaam (Mark Strong).

1. At a site in Jordan, Ferris is shown whipping in progress by the head of the Jordanian intelligence system. 

2. We have heard the lash on flesh and the victim’s cries of pain.  The reverse shot shows the process as Salaam states that this is not “torture” but “punishment, a very different thing.” We are in Ferris’s position, not quite understanding. Later, in retrospect, we realize that this event is not for extracting information from a recalcitrant prisoner but rather a punishment to a secret agent/traitor who has failed his mission. 

3. Himself a prisoner of the terrorists, Ferris has a finger cut off by the leader who leaves him to be worked over and executed. DiCaprio struggles as the thugs hold him down to videotape the event.

4. In a trite cliffhanger finale, after brandishing a large knife, the leading henchman moves to cut Ferris’s abdomen….just as the Jordanian security forces arrive to rescue him from death. He was bait to trap the chief, who unwittingly walks into a waiting SUV to depart only to find out he is under arrest.

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