Costa Gavras

This week I watched a movie DVD I got from the local library called, Z. “He lives”. Supposedly based on a real story which took place two months before the US JFK assassination; centred in Greece and some local election campaigning there. Sometimes the only place where you can get a taste of the TRUTH is via the media, you see. This director was given an Academy Award for Best Foreign picture. The library system here holds 2 other DVDs he did; MISSING, and The Axe.

MISSING is about a military junta which takes place in a South American country in the 70s, and how one specific American citizen vanishes and ultimately why. Gavras hints that the junta was directed by “special US security forces” and it was they who caused the US citizen in question to go missing, for reasons less to do with the politics of the situation and more with his personal relationship with an attractive American girl one of the “US advisers” has begun to “desire.”

Z, is less subtle though. The “accidental killing” of the liberal democratic candidate takes place in a town square before the eyes of at least a thousand spectators who have gathered to support him, or to protest against him. The candidate has been forewarned that an assassination attempt may be made against him, and this has been passed on to local security people in State police who also have assembled in the square in large numbers.

Then, of course, an accident appears to take place within everyone’s view and the candidate is sent to a local hospital with critical head injuries while his wife is summoned to be by his side in the emergency.

He then passes on due to the extensive nature of his head wounds, and an investigation begins to take shape. State authorities want to finalise it within a few days and have conveniently gathered sworn statements from various witnesses and also from the driver of the van which was blamed for the accident. Everything looked to be pre-arranged, and seemed to be an open and shut case of a drunk driver somehow finding himself in the square accidentally hitting the candidate thus causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head, thus sustaining life threatening injuries.

It’s at this point that the director Gavras introduces the element of the absurd using a local investigative judge who has been given the case to surmise. In Greece, where the events took place, it seems that a judge is always appointed to investigate serious crimes, rather than state police or security authorities. The investigative judge almost accepts the story as told to him, but notices several discrepancies between the driver’s statement and the statement from his passenger. It seems that everyone of note had been drinking at a local bar and all statements were actually made prior to the accident taking place!

The judge investigates how this could be so, and follows a path which brings him to look into a secret organisation more or less run by the head of the local Security agency. It is a quasi religious/monarchist organisation that appears to be aligned against “unhygienic” political ideologies, including the one which the candidate’s party endorsed. This secret society recruits people to its ranks who are largely illiterate by offering them employment opportunities they would otherwise not get, due to their lack of training/education; in other words the secret society mainly targets labourers who are called upon infrequently, to perform a “job” for it which is usually illegal and of a political nature. The film mentioned arson attacks, “protests” against “coloured migrants” and against “religious movements” which do no support the Secret Society’s manifesto.

The investigating judge virtually uncovers a direct conspiracy involving people high in government security which had as its aim, to kill the candidate strictly because of his “liberal” politics.

He brings charges against those implicated by the evidence he has unearthed, such as Conspiracy to Murder, and the film concludes with what those charges resulted in. The so called Generals were literally given a slap on the wrist and a reprimand and the entire case was closed, including against the “passenger” of the vehicle, who the evidence showed had struck the candidate with an iron rod thus causing the fatal injuries. He was not in fact run down by the van at all.

In the real world, approximately 2 months later, the US President J. F. Kennedy was himself assassinated in a public place with many people witnessing it. That took place in Texas, the Lone Star State, on November 22 1963.

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