Movie Review: The Fall of Fujimori

Publication YearIssue Date 

While 'war criminal' might be the easy label to slap onto someone wanted by the United Nations for corruption, kidnapping and murder, The Fall of Fujimori suggests there is no such easy answer. In fact, any answer at all becomes eventually irrelevant in director Ellen Perry's award-winning documentary. The film's aim isn't to judge Alberto Fujimori, the disgraced former president of Peru, but to point to a larger message, and a warning of what can happen when a government gets caught up in a war on terrorism.

When Fujimori--the son of poor Japanese immigrant parents--was elected to the Peruvian presidency in 1990, his posters were plastered with the popular slogan "I am you." While very different physically from the majority of the population, his good intentions and initial success bringing Peru out of an economic depression and suppressing both terrorist groups and the illegal drug flow earned him two more terms as president. However, it was the handling of the country's destructive terrorist groups, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and the Shining Path, which led Fujimori to abandoning human rights in favour of security, and made his government just as responsible for the massive toll on life as the terrorists themselves.

Initially, the whole country was happy that Fujimori brought some form of peace, some even going so far to proclaim, "These bastards [the Shining Path] need to be destroyed, even if it looks bad to human rights and the international media." The bodies and destruction are, in a way, Fujimori's response.

The story of Fujimori's rise and fall is incredibly compelling, in need of no embellishment, and the film recognizes this. The director calls it a "Shakespearian tragedy," complete with all the necessary elements. His wife is bitter and estranged, even running against her husband later on in the film, claiming he was changed and power hungry since his election. His fiercely loyal daughter even shows up alongside a cruel and diabolic enemy.

The film presents these elements through interviews the director conducted with Fujimori at the time of his exile, using the former leader as a lens to examine his presidency. This is supplemented with news footage and interviews with his daughter Keiko, noted journalists and Peruvian legislators. Though it's a relatively limited view, it is appropriate in this case, encapsulating the incredible and complex events.

The drama of the film hasn't had a lot of coverage in the North American media, perhaps making the events that unfold all the more shocking. The Fall of Fujimori is concerned with the state of the world, and a revelation for anyone interested in power, terror and the politics of fear.