Open Letter To Luis Puenzo

from América Scarfó

To Luis Puenzo:

Having had no reply to my recorded letter of 6 April I have decided to write these few lines to you. I have no liking for court proceedings: the system’s courts virtually always favour the powerful. Be that as it may, though, I simply must place on record the dismal quality of the script filmed as Severino. You know very well that the entire thing is a silly lie. It is not our story - the story of Severino Di Giovanni and me. You have concocted hybrid personages that have nothing anarchist about them. The entire yarn is awash with a sickliness bordering on stupidity. You hint at a triangle, a questionable relationship between siblings and at other matters which I cannot go into in the space available in this letter. You make up for lack of ideas with sex and shoot-outs. I showed you the photocopied police report on the raid on Burzaco where Severino had been living up until the time he was arrested: the premises contained no weapons nor was there any of the shoot-outs of which you are so fond. When I told you that I disagreed with the first portion of the screenplay, you promised me that it would be amended. You did not honour that promise and you carry on in the same blithe lying tone, giving your script a name that you have no right to usurp. It is a shame that you did not use of the evidence I advanced to you (reports, writings, poems, etc.) to produce a fine movie: a story of pure love and an epic of dreamers bent on changing this wretched world. It is sad that the Institute of Cinematography (and the odd backer) should have squandered money on a movie that misleads people with its despicable falsehoods. An idyll reflected in 50 love letters, poetry and poems and not once do you include the word “love” in this obscene screenplay. It is as if you had thrown mud over a garland of splendid flowers. A lover of the calibre of Severino would never have described his loved one as “dynamite”. I read you the contents of his last letter (written only hours before his death). As he had so often before, he referred to me as “sweetness”. Both Severino and my brother Paulino Scarfó went to their deaths like heroes. They lived and perished for an ideal of justice and freedom. They were not layabouts sprawling in bed in ambiguous poses, such as you cynically suggest in your screenplay. In Burzaco they had tended gardens, beehives, a nursery and a printshop in which we all did our bit. There are details that expose your utter ignorance of how family life was back in those days, your ignorance of how people spoke, what they ate, etc. And you really ought to know that type-setters do not melt down lead. I never did so, nor did I visit the out of the way places you have dreamt up. You are mistaken, Luis Puenzo, and badly mistaken at that, for these were no “toughs” or “roughnecks”. They were cultivated men, working men. Their language was not the dirty talk you present. It is only to be expected and unremarkable that the gutter press should concoct and exaggerate the police charges and play down the ideological component of the fight against fascism and the militarism that dominated in those days. But, Puenzo, you are a good director, an Oscar-winner, known the world over : Is that not enough for you? Let somebody else write the screenplay, then, someone with a good feeling for language; someone conversant with and objective about the events of the 1930s and who won’t do what you have done: conjure up individuals “all whipped up like a meringue”, as the tango writer has it. You make little of us and you offend us all, even the family members who had nothing to do with anarchist beliefs. At barely 22 years old, with his siblings and the family lawyer urging him to sign a petition for clemency to be forwarded to Uriburu, Paulino refused, saying “An anarchist does not sue a tyrant for mercy”. Don’t you think that he deserved a modicum of respect and not to be depicted as a weakling? I appeal to your sense of decency, calling upon you to reflect upon the slight you have committed against both families, mine and Di Giovanni’s, who cannot comprehend such perversity. On that basis, you have no right to use our names, surnames or nicknames or any term by which we might be identified. You are incapable of capturing the personality of those fighters who, by virtue of their culture and education, could have lived quiet lives and yet opted for the heroic life for the sake of their ideal.

A biography of di Giovanni, entitled Anarchism and violence by Oswaldo Bayer is [was] available from Elephant Editions: BM Elephant, London, WC1 N 3XX £4.95

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.