Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                         

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Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   If the mother hadn't had a change of heart and explored her daughter's origins, what would the daughter's reaction have been if she had learned of her origins from another source?

Suggested Response: Severe feelings of betrayal and confusion. The child's feelings of love for her mother would have been severely compromised, if not destroyed.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  1985 Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film; 1985 Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress (Aleandro); 1986 Golden Globe Awards: Best Foreign Film; 1985 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: Best Foreign Film; 1985 New York Film Critics Awards: Best Actress (Aleandro); 1985 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Original Screenplay.

      Featured Actors:  Norma Aleandro, Hector Alterio, Chela Ruiz, Chunchuna Villafane, Hugo Arana, Patricio Contreras.

      Director:  Luis Puenzo and Argentina Puenzo.

    Helpful Background:

    See the second paragraph of the Benefits Section. A person we interviewed was imprisoned and tortured because his name was found in the phone book of another person suspected of complicity in the insurgency. Fortunately, someone had seen the military take him away and his family was able to secure his release.

    The killings occurred in a number of ways. Many people were tortured to death. Others were dropped into the ocean from helicopters. Still others were taken to distant locations, herded into groups and machine gunned. Another former prisoner of the Junta told us of his escape when he was taken with a group of prisoners to be executed by machine gun. A few people tried to run and were gunned down by the soldiers. In the ensuing confusion a second wave of prisoners tried to run and a few escaped without being shot. The person that we spoke to said that he was one of the few lucky ones who escaped in the second group. Those who did not try to escape were machine gunned to death. We do not have the resources to confirm these eye-witness accounts but they are consistent with written reports about the activities of the Junta.

    Mothers of "the disappeared" took to marching in the Plaza de Mayo, a central square in Buenos Aires close to government offices. The "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" mounted the first protests that the military dictatorship could not snuff out.

    The Argentine military saw its role in the Dirty War as defending what it called "Western and Christian civilization." This effort took on many perverse forms in addition to torture and murder. When female prisoners were pregnant, they were not killed until after the baby was delivered. The newborn was then placed with childless families of people in the military-security apparatus using forged birth certificates. Most of the adoptive parents knew of the origin of these children. Some actually visited the jails and observed the pregnant mothers. It is estimated that 500 orphans were placed in this manner. As of 1998, about 60 orphans had been recovered by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo working with the Argentine courts. These children have been returned to the families of their murdered parents. One of the former military dictators of Argentina, General Jorge Videla, who had received a pardon for murder and torture, has been indicted for ordering the kidnapping of babies, a crime not included in the pardon.

    Racist attitudes played a part in the Argentine military's efforts to kidnap the babies of political prisoners. In Argentina it is difficult to adopt babies of European heritage. Babies put up for adoption usually come from poor indigenous Indian families. Most of the political prisoners of the Dirty War were white and had been raised in middle or upper class families. They were well nourished and well educated. The babies of the alleged revolutionaries were sought after subjects for adoption.

For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  Could this couple be good parents to the child knowing the truth about the circumstances of her birth?

    2.  Did the father love the daughter? Could he really love her knowing her origins?


    3.  Were the goals of the military in Argentina's Dirty War important enough to justify the sacrifices in human rights that it entailed?

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BUILDING VOCABULARY: "a disappeared person," "to be disappeared," "to disappear someone," junta, Dirty War.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

    1.  Why was it important for the mother to learn of the circumstances of her child's birth?

    2.  Why did the truth of her daughter's origins mean so much to the mother but not to the father?

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

    Bridges to Reading: None.



    Bibliography: In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

    • Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1998, Page 1 "Sunday Report: In Argentina, an 'Open Wound.'"

    Last updated December 17, 2009.

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