In 1975, with the Argentinian economy on the verge of collapsing, seven high school students participate in a strike for lower bus fares. When President Isabel Peron is overthrown, the new military regime arrests six of the demonstrators. Shortly afterward, idealistic Pablo (Alejo Garcia Pintos) is also incarcerated. For five years, the young men and women are tortured savagely. Only Pablos relationship with fellow prisoner Claudia (Vita Escardo) sustains him.
Night of the Pencils (Spanish: ) is a 1986 Argentine historical drama film directed by Hector Olivera and written by Olivera and Daniel Kon. It is based on the non-fiction book by Maria Seoane and Hector Ruiz Nunez. It stars Alejo Garcia Pintos, Vita Escardo, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Jose Maria Monje, Pablo Machado, Adriana Salonia and Hector Bidonde.
The film, based on the actual events recorded in history as the "Night of the pencils" (La noche de los lapices), tells the story of seven students who, after protesting for lower bus fares in the city of La Plata, were abducted in September 1976, during Argentinas last dictatorship (1976 - 1983), and subsequently disappeared. Only one student survived to tell what happened.
The Night of the Pencils was a series of kidnappings and forced disappearances, followed by the torture, rape, and murder of a number of young students during the last Argentine dictatorship (known as the National Reorganization Process). The kidnappings took place over the course of several days beginning on September 16, 1976.
During a time of economic and political unrest and State-sponsored terrorism in Argentina in the mid-1970s, the students want reduced bus fares, so they take to the streets and protest in support of the boleto estudiantil: the students ticket. At first, under Isabel Martinez de Perons government they succeed, but their protests draw hostile attention from the ensuing military regime led by Jorge Rafael Videla, which overthrows Peron on March 24, 1976.
The dictatorship announces that the "leftist agitators" will not be tolerated by the new "government". The increasing violent crackdown on student gatherings is demonstrated when the police break up a school dance brandishing guns. On September 16, six students of the city of La Plata are kidnapped in the middle of the night, and the police claims ignorance about their whereabouts. This is the actual event that will later be called "Night of the Pencils".
Pablo (Alejo Garcia Pintos), the seventh member of the group, is abducted 5 days later by the police. He learns that his friends have been brutally tortured by governmental authorities and that he will receive the same treatment. The interrogators give him electric shocks while radio music and a pillow mask his cries.
Pablo is set free and tells the truth about the groups horrific story. However, his classmates were never found and became part of the thousands of desaparecidos of the dictatorship, who were kidnapped and never seen again.Alejo Garcia Pintos as Pablo Diaz
Vita Escardo as Claudia Falcone
Leonardo Sbaraglia as Daniel
Jose Maria Monje as Panchito
Pablo Machado as Claudio
Adriana Salonia as Maria Clara
Tina Serrano as Mrs. Falcone
Hector Bidonde as Mr. Falcone
Alfonso De Grazia as Priest impersonator
Lorenzo Quinteros as Raul
Juan Manuel Tenuta as the Rector
The motion picture was based on the non-fiction book, La noche de los lapices, written by Maria Seoane and Hector Ruiz Nunez. The book profiles seven high school student activists from La Plata, including lone survivor Pablo Diaz, who gives the authors his testimony. The students were kidnapped by the government after protesting for cheaper bus fare.
Pablo Diaz was transferred to legal incarceration and released on 19 November 1980. The other six students, however, were among the 236 Argentine teenagers who were kidnapped and disappeared during the military dictatorship.
The film was shot entirely in the city of La Plata.
Night of the Pencils first opened in Argentina on September 4, 1986. It has been featured at various film festivals including: the New York New Directors/New Films Festival, the Moscow Film Festival, and the Toronto Film Festival.
In March 2003 the film was included in a slate of films shown at the 1st International Film Festival on Human Rights, held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Critic Manavendra K. Thakur was appreciative of the direction of the film and wrote, "Olivera seems to have kept his integrity mostly intact. He does not shy away from disturbing realities, and he draws a surprisingly complex portrait of the students, their captors, and the students parents. The films accomplishment in this regard is considerable and therefore worthy of serious attention...[and] this is especially true of the films second half."
Caryn James, film critic for The New York Times, also liked Oliveras work, and wrote, "Mr. Olivera builds his film on irony and contrast, so the visual beauty of the early scenes - the deep blue night in which cars and lights glisten - calls attention to the ominous unseen political dangers. In daylight, the once-beautiful, now crumbling buildings, including the high school itself, become emblems of a country falling apart, not knowing what to preserve from its past."
The film was nominated for the Golden Prize at the 15th Moscow International Film Festival.