Neither Hero Nor Traitor : 5th Gustavus Latinx Film Festival Posted on March 31st, 2021 by


The film Ni Héroe ni Traidor, directed by Nicolas Savignone, is a powerful look into the pressures on a young Argentinian thrown into the conflict over the Falkland Islands with Great Britain in 1982. Initially, the audience is introduced to the protagonist, Matias, who is in the midst of a life typical to that of a 19-year old, middle-class boy. He spends time with his girlfriend, playing soccer with his friends, and above all playing his guitar. Matias has dreams of traveling to Spain and making music professionally, despite the doubts of his father. However, his world begins to change with the news that Argentine forces had invaded the Falklands, meaning the likely beginnings of an all-out war between the two nations. The young Argetninian and his group of friends quickly were caught up in patriotic fervor, telling stories of their readiness to prove themselves on the front lines. When the draft notice did come, the boys’ true feelings and natures revealed themselves, with a split between desertion and compliance.

The main conflict throughout the film is internal, in which Matias has a moral dilemma over whether to accept his draft notice. The audience is presented with a heartbreaking tale of a teenager who must choose between his dreams and his “duty.” First of all, it is clear immediately that the protagonist’s sentiments regarding his personal patriotism are muddled. In Matias’ room for example, there are posters of a famous Argentinian boxer and the world cup championship won by Argentina, however, there is also a poster of an Argentinian musician known for criticizing the dictatorship of the 70s. These simultaneous symbols of patriotism and anti-dictatorship attitudes reveal that Matias is unclear on his true feelings. He is a young man who is influenced by social pressure and popular culture and has yet to solidify his own stances. Initially, Matias planned on complying fully with the draft notice, in large part due to the blind patriotism of his friends as well as his grandfather’s history of fighting in the Spanish civil war. However, the mention of the Spanish civil war provides a conflict of stark contrast to that of the Falkland Islands in regards to the motivation behind the violence. The Spanish civil war was an ideological war of fascism versus democracy, whereas the conflict over the Falkland islands was a war without a strong ideological battle under the surface. This juxtaposition is important to recognize, because as the film progresses Matias comes to realize that he doesn’t truly want to take part in the violence of a war in the absence of a cause which truly requires it. His mother is essential in helping to promote this idea of pacifism as well; she forces Matias to think about the consequences and the horrific reality of war, grounding him from the patriotic glory he fantasized about. Matias’ doubts become fully developed after the desperate attempt of his friend Diego to escape the conflict by shooting himself in the foot. The situation escalates quickly, with Diego being arrested while in the hospital after he was turned in as a traitor by another friend, Pablo. Seeing the fear of Diego as well as the fear of Pablo, which had been twisted into a harsh betrayal, was the final domino in Matias’ realization of the ugly true nature of war.

Ultimately, the film is a coming of age story with extremely high stakes; Matias must make one of the first major decisions of his adult life: to go to a war he does not believe in, or desert and face dire consequences. His eventual desertion served to demonstrate not only an anti-war message, but to reinforce the ethical belief that violence should be used only in situations of absolute necessity, if at all. Matias’ story is one of many young men in similar situations in which an unnecessary conflict upended a life of simplicity and innocence. His experience can be applied to the theme of the destruction of war, not only of the normalcy of daily life but potentially of the loss of precious human life, especially of young individuals who lack true passion for the fight they have been forced into.


Madelyn Hessian 23′


The 5th Gustavus Latinx Film Festival is made possible thanks to a PRAGDA Spanish Film Club Grant awarded by Spain’s Ministry of Culture. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures; and the Latin American, Latinx and Caribbean Studies Program.

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We hope you can join us for the next showing and Q&A, Guie’Dani’s Navel.


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