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Death Squadrons: The French School
Directed by Marie-Monique Robin
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"Our war was very efficient. In three years, the subversives were annihilated."- General Ramon Diaz Bessone of Argentina

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, much of Latin America was under the control of brutal military juntas engaged in what they perceived as a life-and-death war against communists. The role of the United States' government in this has been well documented, but until now, France's contribution was more shadowy.

DEATH SQUADRONS: THE FRENCH SCHOOL convincingly reveals French veterans of the wars in Indochina and Algeria provided the inspiration, the training, and some of the intelligence that allowed Latin America's dictators to torture and kill thousands of their own citizens.

Filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin traces the development of the theory of counter-revolutionary warfare, first tested Indochina and in Algiers (where 20,000 civilians died). Some of its foremost practitioners, like French General Paul Aussaresses, freely admit their contributions, even with a hint of pride. Others are surreptitiously captured on a hidden camera, admitting high-level political and military links between the dictators and the French government. Many of those interviewed are now either in custody or under indictment.

Though little documentary footage of these practices exists, the Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo realistically recreated the French interrogation methods in The Battle of Algiers. (The Battle of Algiers was recently shown to American officers confronted with ongoing attacks on their personnel in Iraq, and excerpts from this film illustrate DEATH SQUADRONS).

DEATH SQUADRONS also shows how, during the 1960's, the French were instrumental in training U.S. officers at Fort Bragg on counter-insurgency techniques that were later used by the U.S. military in Vietnam.

DEATH SQUADRONS serves a cautionary note about what can happen when governments and the military are convinced that enemies are everywhere, and that any means necessary can be employed to fight them. It's an important lesson to bear in mind as the war on terror continues.

"[A] chilling reminder of what happens when unaccountable security forces and governments arrogate the right to target presumed enemies with the very terror that they claim to be fighting. DEATH SQUADRONS makes an important contribution to our understanding of the development and dissemination of brutal counterinsurgency tactics in the Americas." Journal of Latin American Anthropology

"A valuable contribution to the study of state terror. Its intent is to illuminate the lesser-known French role [in Latin America], and in that it succeeds exceptionally well. Robin makes skillful use of rare documentary footage interspersed with her interviews. Highly Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students as well as experts." —The Americas: A Quarterly Journal of Inter-American Cultural History

“Marie-Monique Robin mines the hidden vein of French culpability, demonstrating in a volley of meticulously detailed research drawn in part from recently declassified intelligence files… Absolutely blood-chilling." —Senses of Cinema

2005 African Literature Association Film Festival
2004 Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
Best Film, 2004 Ismailia International Festival of Documentary Films (Egypt)
2004 Human Rights Watch Film Festival
2003 Amsterdam International Documentary Festival
2003 International Film Festival for Human Rights in Latin America & the Caribbean

60 minutes / Color
English; French; Spanish / English subtitles
Release: 2004
Copyright: 2003

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Conflict Resolution, Criminal Justice, Ethics, France, French History, History (U.S.), History (World), Human Rights, Latin America, Latin American Studies, Political Science, Politics, South America, Vietnam Era

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