Condemned to Remember


In an unnamed Latin-American country, a group of archaeologists work patiently on a site deep in the jungle. An older man leads a team of what seem to be archaeology students or trainees. A few older women are at the site as well, although they seem not to be taking part in the dig.

Another man is summoned to the site, although not to assist the team. His arrival stirs up the friendly atmosphere of the expedition, and long-suppressed emotions surface.

Isaki Lacuesta’s Los Condenados (The Condemned) does not yield its secrets easily. Indeed, Lacuesta seems to have applied the metaphor of archaeology to his film’s narrative. There is no exposition, as in a classic three-act structure. Instead, the story is uncovered layer by fine layer, as though the narration were a brush gently sweeping away years of accumulated dust.

The effect is disorienting, and ultimately only fragments of the backstory are unearthed, hinting at the larger object of the search that has since been lost to time, but continues to be remembered.

Los Condenados was apparently inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes. Set in Tsarist Russia, the novel tells of a friendship torn apart by political betrayal. Los Condenados re-imagines the story in the context of Latin American desaparecidos, and focuses on the final section of the novel.

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Latin America