La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo is a recreation of one day at the Canto Grande prison in Peru, following women guerrillas of the Maoist Shining Path movement from their morning marches to their bedtime chants. When members of the revolutionary-terrorist group were captured and imprisoned, the authorities isolated them in their own cellblocks. The guerrillas thought of this imprisonment as just another front in the People’s War, calling them “shining trenches of combat.” The prisoners organized propaganda, literature, and military classes as well as marches, criticism sessions, and dances.
The film is shot in Hi-8 analog as if it were an amateur video made by the prisoners themselves in the late 1980s. Though the film is heavily researched and uses sections of interviews and poems from guerrillas, it is fictional. The script is based on a core of interviews, readings and other research that was turned into a stylized version of a day in the cellblock. The extreme violence and ideological dogmatism of the Shining Path was seen at the time as an aberration among Latin American guerrilla groups, but now it seems that they were in line with 21st Century guerrilla tactics.
“Jim Finn’s films “boldly upturn notions of documentary and fiction, propaganda thought, reality and restaging, and even what an ‘experimental film’ actually is. To say that these films closed up new possibilities for satire, ideas and language isn’t an overstatement.”