by Lauren Pringle, contributing blogger
Censorship is not common in Argentina, yet one film has recently become the subject of prior restraint. The documentary Borrando a Papá (Erasing Dad) was originally set to premiere on August 28th, but it was suddenly pulled down at the behest of a non-governmental organization that criticized its release.
Directed by Ginger Gentile and Sandra Fernández Ferreira, and produced by San Telmo Productions (owners of the blog Filming in Argentina) Erasing Dad is about the plight of fathers that are “erased” from their children’s lives after a divorce or separation by the family court system that tends to rule against fathers.
Why the controversy over a film about divorce? The film denounces the “thousands of lawyers and psychologists who live off prolonging conflict in family court cases”, states co-director Ginger Gentile, as well as the organizations that receive subsidies by exaggerating domestic violence statistics. The filmmakers claim that resources are not being used to protect the real victims of domestic violence but rather separate fathers who only “crimes” have been to speak Russian to their son or that the mother fears that “he will do something”, as two cases in the documentary show.
“Technical problems” were cited for the cancellation of the theatrical premier of Erasing Dad but few weeks before this date an NGO started a petition on Change.org asking for the film to be censored. This NGO and others pressured the Argentine film board (INCAA), which funded the film, to not allow it to be premiered.
Many of the people asking for censorship were interviewed for the film, where they admit, on camera, that they do everything possible to prevent fathers from seeing their children. They also want to revert the assumption of innocence in these cases. In the words of one psychologist: “If I say that a father is guilty, he is guilty until he can prove his innocence. . . we need to change the constitution so that in these types of cases so the burden of proof is on the father.”
After the movie theater premier was cancelled, the filmmakers arranged a screening open to the public on September 2 at the Colegio Público de Abogados (city law guild) but it was cancelled a few days prior. “Technical difficulties”, were cited but leaked emails revealed that two government functionaries, including a city congresswoman, had personally asked for the movie’s ban, citing its “erred focus”. The congresswoman, Gladys Gonzalez, has debated with Gentile on the radio defending her position and has received a firestorm of criticism on Twitter and Facebook for her views.
The case has since taken to the press, with several media outlets commenting on the issue. “They say they don’t want to censor the movie, just to prevent its exhibition,” reported the newspaper Perfil regarding the opposing NGO. “That’s like saying you don’t want a person dead, you just want him to stop breathing”. Ámbito Financiero likened the situation to “an act of prior restraint”. Of the affair, CineFreaks said: “A movie’s projection shouldn’t be censored at the request of those who haven’t seen it. It’s already helped open up a debate on a long-forgotten issue: fathers”.
The movie has only grown in popularity and support across social media, both locally and internationally, garnering over 17,000 Facebook “likes”, over 60,000 trailer views. “30 to 40 fathers suffering contact us a day” as co-director Fernández Ferreira mentioned in an interview with newspaper La Nación, which has also reported on the “strong controversy”. This level of media coverage and social media following is unheard of for a small documentary in Argentina.
The filmmakers and the protagonists of the film (fathers and experts) have been making rounds on television news shows to talk about not only the censorship but the business behind divorce cases. Lawyers, judges and politicians have also begun to meet with the filmmakers and experts to see how the current system can be modified, as the reaction to the film shows that there is a critical mass of affected families.