Think there are no black people in Argentina? “Afroargentinos,” a 2002 documentary from Jorge Fortes and Diego Ceballos, says strongly otherwise. It turns out that black people have been extant there ever since the country was in its developmental stages, and they’ve been making their achievements under the cloud of discrimination and ghost-like anonymity ever since. Chronicling the early arrival and subsequent influence of Africans on a society where the average man on the street will tell you that “there are no black people,” the film combines numerous first-hand interviews with a panoply of historical artifacts to disseminate the story of a small – but not nonexistent – and misunderstood group.
Following the general formula of a Ken Burns production (though it’s more lively than the designation would imply), “Afroargentinos” certainly doesn’t lack detail: via a rich selection of primary and secondary sources, the material expounds the hardships endured and contributions made in Argentina by Africans, mulattoes and everything in between. Little-known (or at least little-remembered) data abound; few acknowledge the prominent position of blacks in the nation’s military victories, let alone the fact that Argentina’s first president was black. One interviewee even makes the point that, were it not for the Afroargentines, tango wouldn’t exist.
These revelations and more are brought to the foreground by “Afroargentinos,” whose goal of shedding light on the experience of both those featured in the film (a wildly varied lineup, including a turbaned, stereotype-battling musician) and their predecessors. South American sociological history buffs will likely want to take in this cinematic offering, and, since it will be screened at the MultiCultural Center on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m., they’ll have the opportunity. Though the film makes its points with much evidence and clarity, there will still be an opportunity to float unanswered questions; G. Reginald Daniel, UCSB’s very own associate professor of sociology, will lead a discussion after the screening.