Criticism: Criticism of “The Photographer and the Postman: The Crime of Heads”, by Alejandro Hartmann (Netflix)

After its premiere at the recent BAFICI, this correct documentary about the case of the murder of photographer José Luis Cabezas, by the same team from the series, comes to streaming Carmel: Who killed Maria Marta? (also available on Netflix), which shook Argentine society in the ’90s and changed the course of history.

The Photographer and the Postman: The Crime of Cabezas (Argentina/20222). Direction: Alejandro Hartmann. Screenplay: Tatiana Mereñuk, Gabriel Bobillo and Alejandro Hartmann. Photography: Alejandra Martin. Edition: Santiago Parysow. Art design: Mariela Rípodas and Catalina Oliva. Sound: Martin Grignaschi. Music: Leo Sujatovich. Production: Vanessa Ragone (Haddock Films). Executive production: Vanessa Ragone, Mariela Besuievsky and Alejandro Hartmann. Duration: 105 minutes. Available from Thursday May 19 on Netflix.

This documentary from the same team as the far superior series Carmel: Who killed Maria Marta? it is at the same time an affirmation, a disappointment and a welcome service. A confirmation of the professionalism of Vanessa Ragone (Haddock Films) and director Alejandro Hartmann (who surprisingly presented another film, The National, in the Argentine Competition of the last BAFICI) when reconstructing notorious police cases (and not only police) in Argentine history; a disappointment because there are practically no new contributions in this research; and a welcome service because the new generations and the public from other latitudes who are completely unaware of the case now have a precise and easy-to-read summary of the scope and implications of a crime that remained an exponent of Menem’s corruption, of an overwhelming mafia network, of the impunity of power and the social change it generated.

At this point, after seeing dozens of true crime stories national and foreign, one can see that a kind of formula has been consolidated in terms of reconstruction of true cases both in the appeal to certain elements of fiction, design, use of archive materials, photography of testimonies current events, the rhythm of the montage or the music as a permanent emotional underline (Leo Sujatovich’s in this case is no exception). In that sense, The Photographer and the Postman: The Crime of Cabezas seems to meet each and every one of the requirements of the manual of the good Netflix documentary.

The main testimonies that somehow articulate the story are those of Gabriel Michi (journalist, friend and companion of Cabezas when they covered the 1997 summer season in Pinamar), Mariano Cazeaux (one of the central figures in the judicial investigation that took place in the court of Dolores as secretary of Judge José Luis Macchi), Alejandro Vecchi (lawyer of the victim’s family) and the then Buenos Aires Governor Eduardo Duhalde. Other referents of the magazine also contribute their visions and memories Newsjournalists who covered the case such as Lorena Maciel or Ricardo Ragendorfer, although there are also absences (especially from the photojournalist’s inner circle) that are supplied with archive material.

If the documentary does not offer important revelations, it does fulfill the objective of being an effective and didactic reconstruction of that whole story (the party organized by Oscar Andreani, the discovery of the body of Cabezas with two shots in the head, handcuffed and inside a Burnt-out white Ford Fiesta, the police investigation full of irregularities, the palace inmates that included Menem, Cavallo and Duhalde, the trail of Alfredo Yabrán, the subsequent suicide of the powerful businessman and the resolution of the court case that today has all those involved in freedom after having served shortened sentences) and -no lesser merit- offer an appropriate context of the time and its socio-political consequences: from the electoral victory of Fernando de la Rúa to the explosion of 2001. Thus, 25 years after those fateful facts, it can be said without euphemisms that Hartmann’s documentary is a worthy, meritorious and wise work that also constitutes a well-deserved tribute to the heads figure.

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