January 23, 2018

BAFICI - Messenger on a white horse premiere at the BAFICI

Friday, April 28, 2017

The many faces of a hero

Bob Cox
Bob Cox
Bob Cox
By Veronica Stewart
For the Herald

Over forty years ago, when the last military dictatorship overthrew the government of Isabel Perón and rose to power, it was impossible to know what the country was up against. After months of unstoppable violence, a coup d’état was, for many, a welcome change, so much so that virtually all Argentine newspapers celebrated the event. The Buenos Aires Herald was among those newspapers. As Robert Cox, then editor-in-chief of the Herald explained, Argentina was famous for having dictatorships in power and seeing them more as a solution to a chaotic nation than as a bloody era in its history.

It was only as time went by and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo started voicing their concerns about the whereabouts of their children, that the darkness of this chapter in Argentine history became clear. Yet even then, the media did not change their discourse, but rather defended the military’s stance until the bitter end. Cox was the only one to open the door for the Mothers, and the Herald, the only newspaper who dared speak of the kidnapping and torturing of so-called “terrorists” without a trial.

It took an Englishman to speak out against the dictatorship and it took an Australian to make a movie about it. Perhaps it is the distance they, as foreigners, can take when looking at Argentine history. Perhaps it was Cox’s love for the military as a kid, his father having fought in World War I, that made him stand up against an institution that had disappointed him. Or maybe it was Jayson McNamara’s past at the Buenos Aires Herald as a staffer which inspired him to direct Messenger on a white horse.

In any case, the movie tells Cox’s story at the Herald without ever failing to show the context in which he and all Argentines were immersed. Bob Cox risked his life to do what had to be done, and that makes him a hero because no other journalist in the country had the guts to do so. The movie certainly portrays this side of him and shows Cox as a beloved figure, and yet it’s not afraid to reveal his main contradictions. It even shows how reluctant he was to believe that the government was capable of such things, and how, even at the end, he still referred to some of the young people who were murdered as terrorists.

It is on this point that McNamara was especially careful when making the film. However thankful the Mothers were to Cox for listening to them and giving them a voice, they still remember how, to Cox, their children were always terrorists. Terrorists who should’ve gotten a fair trial, of course, but terrorists nonetheless. The fact that movie touched upon such a sensitive subject made McNamara nervous about showing it to the Mothers. “In the last few years the Mothers have been delegitimised a lot,” McNamara told the Herald. “So I thought it was really important to give them their voice in this film and make sure that they told their story. When they saw it, they were very emotional and said gracias a lot. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Messenger on a white horse took on a tremendous task. It was an Australian attempt to tell a story the director hadn’t lived in a country which wasn’t his own about a British journalist trying to speak the truth in the midst of one of the worst political crises in a foreign country. But it is precisely by acknowledging this multicultural prism and by shining a light on Cox’s very human contradictions and doubts that McNamara tells a story that rings true to locals. His biggest accomplishment is that he managed to reveal the shades of gray in a part of history so often told in black and white. In a way, it is not so much a movie about a man, but rather a tale of journalistic ethics, political injustices and a deep sense of despair, and of how all there is left to do in times like those is simply what is right.


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Edition No. 5055 - This publication is a property of NEFIR S.A. -RNPI Nº 5343955 - Issn 1852 - 9224 - Te. 4349-1500 - San Juan 141 , (C1063ACY) CABA - Director Perdiodístico: Ricardo Daloia