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LA HORA DE LOS Hornos (by John Mraz)

(The Hour of the Furnaces) Argentina, 1968


Director: Fernando E. Solanas
Production: Grupo Cine Liberacin; black and white, 16 and 35mm; running time: 260 minutes,
French version: 200 minutes; the film is composed of 3 parts: "Neocolonialismo y violencia" - 90
minutes, "Acto para la liberacin" - 120 minutes, and "Violencia y liberacin" - 45 minutes.
Released 1968. Filmed in Argentina.
Producer: Fernando E. Solanas; screenplay: Fernando E. Solanas and Octavio Getino;
photography: Juan Carlos de Sanzo with Fernando E. Solanas; editor: Fernando E. Solanas;
sound: Octavio Getino; music: Fernando E. Solanas.
The liberation struggles of the 1960s were a fertile seedbed for La hora de los hornos.
Independence movements in the colonies and neo-colonies of the Third World, student revolts
in the United States and Western Europe, and the brief protest by Czechoslovakians against the
dull grey bureaucracy of the Soviet Union were the world context in which Fernando E. Solanas
and Octavio Getino's film exploded. Argentina moved closer to a social revolution than it ever
had before (or since), and Hora was an important expression of that movement, as well as a
pivotal example for cineastes involved in national liberation movements throughout the world.
The film is a documentary of such length (4" hours) that most viewers outside of Argentina have
probably seen only the first part. Perhaps influenced by the work of the Cuban documentarist,
Santiago Alvarez, the directors have created a film that takes the form of a didactic collage,
committed to the denunciation of imperialism and its cultural influences. As is stated in the film:
"Mass communications are more effective for neo-colonialism than napalm. What is real, true,
and rational is to be found on the margin of the Law, just as are the people."
That which is most interesting about the film's form is its relation to the audience. Rather than
the conventional finished cinematic product, ready for viewer consumption, the work is
conceived as an open-ended militant act, in which the film itself is only important as a
"detonator" or "pretext for dialogue." Parts 2 and 3 were structured with pauses in which the
projector was to be turned off and discussion was to take place; groups using the film were
encouraged to employ their own visual or sound accompaniment and to cut or add to the film as
they saw fit. Of course, the very context in which the film was shown contributed to the sense of

audience participation. Because the film was illegal, no one in the audience was a mere
spectator: "On the contrary, from the moment he decided to attend the showing, from the
moment he lined himself up on this side by taking risks and contributing his living experience to
the meeting, he became an actor, a more important protagonist than those who appeared in the
films. The situation turned everyone into accomplices of the act."
Argentina's climate of political repression also required a novel approach to production.
Conceiving of their work as a guerrilla act, Solanas and Getino "provided a model for
clandestine activity under an aggressively hostile regime which no filmmakers in Latin America
or elsewhere have surpassed," noted the American critic Julianne Burton. Strict discipline and
tight security were the rule, and all who participated in the film's production were required to
develop interchangeable skills. One example of the measures required by the situation was that
the film's footage had to be constantly disassembled and reassembled so that technicians in the
processing laboratories would have no hint as to its subversive content.
The film's strident manichaeism ("our culture and their culture, our films and their films, our
sense of beauty and their sense of beauty") and its puerile historical analysis seem dated today.
But, the current situation in Latin America leaves little room for doubt that more such films are
both needed and forthcoming. As Solanas and Getino stated in Hora, "At this time in Latin
America there is room for neither passivity nor innocence. The intellectual's commitment is
measured in terms of risks as well as words and ideas; what he does to further the cause of
liberation is what counts." What Solanas and Getino did for the cause of liberation was make La
hora de los hornos, which, as they reminded us in their first public statement about the film "is
an act before it is a filman act of liberation."
John Mraz

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