(The 2018 SXSW Film Festival kicked off March 9 and ran all the way through to March 17. Hammer to Nail has a slew of reviews and interviews coming in hot and heavy so keep your dial tuned to HtN!)
Jenny Murray’s documentary ¡Las Sandinistas! captures an extraordinary period of time when thousands of Nicaraguan women took up weapons and joined the 1979 Sandinista Revolution. Some of these brave women became leaders on the battlefield, shattering social structures that historically considered women to be the lesser gender.
Blending archive footage of the 1979 Sandinista Revolution with current day interviews, Murray zones in on how the lives of these women have changed in the subsequent decades. It is no surprise that after the revolution, the male dominated country pretended that women had no leadership roles in the war (why do you think they call it HIStory?), despite plenty of cinematic evidence that proves otherwise. Memory plays a recurring theme in ¡Las Sandinistas!, not only commenting upon the faulty recollections of male Nicaraguans, but also reminding us that the women being interviewed are discussing situations that occurred decades ago. There are probably some things they have chosen to forget (like the horrors of war), and other memories that have been altered during the course of time.
Murray also delves into the motivation for these women to take up arms. The general consensus is they were standing up against an overtly masculine and machismo government. The President (correction: Dictator) of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza Garcia, was one of the wealthiest men in the country. The divide between the wealthy elite and everyone else had grown unfathomable and insurmountable. The Somoza government was prone to lying so much that they convinced themselves of the lies. The elections were rigged, so voting did them no good. Yeah, I know. It all sounds eerily similar to present day United States. It often feels like we are just one major natural disaster (or nuclear war) away from having a dictator of our own. In Nicaragua, it just took a devastating earthquake for Somoza to seize tyrannical control.
So, the mischievous (nasty?) women realized that violence was the only remaining solution. Its an invigoratingly motivational story, especially considering the current political situation in the U.S. In fact, watching ¡Las Sandinistas! made me think about the power and influence women in the United States have shown in their resistance to Trump and the anti-women politics of the modern day Republican Party. Just imagine if all of those women were carrying machine guns and artillery.
– Don Simpson (@thatdonsimpson)