In the first film, A Twelve-Year Night, Alvaro Brechner reconstructs the years of prison of Mujica, imprisoned in September 73 with Mauricio Rosencof and Fernández Huidobro, three relevant chiefs of the Tupamaro guerrilla movement, been crushed and dismantled the previous year. All its members had been imprisoned and tortured. On an autumn night, without notice nine Tupamaro prisoners are abducted from their cells as part of a secret military operation that will last for 12 years. From that moment forth, the prisoners, divided in groups of three, will be rotated through several barracks all over the country, subjected to a macabre experiment: a new form of torture with the objective of surpassing the limits of mental endurance. The military order is very clear: “Since we couldn’t kill them, we are going to drive them insane”.
For over a decade, the prisoners will remain isolated in minuscule cells where they spend most of their time hooded, bound, in silence, deprived of basic needs, undernourished, forbidden to talk, their senses reduced to the bare minimum. The merit of the film is in telling the story of how they managed to survive, with bodies and minds pushed beyond their limits. They succeded thanks their will and strength, by recreating their own world, vision and fantasy in order to escape the terrible reality that condemned them to madness The indomitable mother of Mujica, overcoming the denial of the Authorities, was able to meet him two times, being for him one of the only helps in those long years.
The story of Mujica's life continues in El Pepe- Una vida suprema, the film by Emir Kusturiça whose shooting began in 2014, during Mujica’s last months in office and first days after leaving the presidency, as he works on his farm, walks his dog, and tends to his flowers.
From darkness to light, from the terrible 12 years to the presidency: an unbelievable life journey. The film is a fascinating interview. Or better to say an intimate dialogue that explores the meaning of existence as a political commitment and as a poetic adventure. To enliven the dialogue, also the acclaimed Serbian director appears in the interview. Mujica summarizes his experience as a political prisoner, shown in the previous film “I wouldn´t be who I am. I would be as frozen as a statue without my years in solitude in jail”. Visiting his first prison, now converted into a shopping mall, El Pepe recalls the years in which his nom de guerre was Facundo and being a young revolutionary meant working towards an egalitarian society free from hunger, injustice and obscene wealth. El Pepe never let these ideals vanish and they made him into the most atypical president in the world: he donated his salary to poor communities, never left his farm, and never used a tie or a credit card. Combining his role in office with his passion for growing flowers, he transformed Uruguay into a role model for innovative and progressive policies in areas like environmental management and legalized marihuana. Focusing more on the future than the past, Kusturiça captures a life of ethical commitment with simplicity and great beauty showing that, even in this world, there is still a place for utopias.
That’s his comment about the man: "To reach a utopia requires a fundamental change of awareness. Through his life path and personal example, Jose Mujica gives hope to achieving ideals. Mujica's love for life and nature is at the core of his ideology. Deeply impressed by him and his work, sad that my country has never had such a president, and in a celebration of utopia and virtue, I made this film." “I am interested in the man who is happy driving his tractor and working on his farm, a man with a scientific devotion to his flowers who, at the same time, has had a strong impact on the world of politics precisely because he is so unique,” “Of all the revolutionaries,” Kusturiça continues, “Mujica is the most successful. He is more of a philosopher with a practical mind. The film narrates the human experience of being a member of an urban guerrilla group and then having the calm and wisdom to rethink the contemporary world.” That strength is captured in every scene. “Every time Mujica is on screen, you can feel the humanity and kindness that emanates from him,” says Kusturiça, who still feels the effects the former president has over people. “I come from Eastern Europe. Believe me: not even in the most consolidated democracies you find a Mujica. Presidents usually end up in prison, run off or hide. They become rich. Mujica is the opposite. He is truly unique.”