Today in the twenty-first century the topic of homosexuality is still a hard pill to swallow for many, but imagine the same topic during the 80s under an oppressive government – unthinkable.
Renate Costa, a young woman from Paraguay, attempts to search for the answers to questions about her uncle Rodolfo that have lingered in her mind for years, questions that lead her to unearth an unspoken and violent history of her country while under the regime of President Alfredo Stroessner.
“Cuchillo de Palo/108” is a documentary film directed by Costa, it brings to light the repression of homosexuals in Paraguay as Costa tries to piece together the mysterious death of her uncle who was looked as rebellious and as a “cuchillo de palo” (useless knife) for wanting to be a dancer rather than a blacksmith like his father and the rest of his brothers. During her journey she discovers that during the dictatorship, Stroessner ordered the creation of homosexual blacklists which were placed all throughout the country causing the people named to be fired from their jobs, discriminated, and rejected by family and friends. The episode is known as “the 108 list” because the first list had 108 names, Rodolfo Hector Costa Torres, Costa’s uncle, was number 41in one of the many black lists.
The film “was born out of a reaction and the necessity of confronting the anger and pain that comes from seeing people’s willful ignorance in the face of clear evidence,” Costa said in a statement released. “Filming the present in order to recover a past that allows us to gain a better understanding of where we come from and to recognize who we are.”
“Cuchillo de Palo/108” has been showing in a number of festivals around the world since 2010 including the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, the Krakov Film Festival in Poland and the Latin Beat Film Festival in New York, among many others. Yesterday, the film debuted for a theatrical premier at the Maysles Cinema in Harlem, NY. It will be available through Sunday.