Las Sandanistas

In this documentary, Chicago filmmaker Jenny Murray examines a little-known chapter of Central American history: the role of female combatants in the Sandinista revolution and the Contra wars of Nicaragua between 1979 and 1990. The veterans she interviews cut across social classes—peasant, landowner, intellectual—which underscores the fact that the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) campaign to end the dynastic dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza was a widespread popular uprising. Journalist Sofía Montenegro is perhaps the most most world-weary of Murray’s subjects: she joined the FSLN but her family supported Somoza, and her brother was eventually captured and executed by the Sandinistas. The most analytical is former Minister of Health Dora María Téllez, a natural-born tactician who at age 22 led insurrectionists to take the city of León. Women comprised 30 percent of the Sandinista forces, fighting alongside men, but at war’s end sexism gradually reascended in the culture; poet Daisy Zamora lost her standing in the Ministry of Culture after she rebuffed the sexual advances of a powerful official. Those profiled decry the Sandinista party’s shift to the right, citing strict antiabortion laws and other human rights infringements under the leadership of current President Daniel Ortega. As fascinating as these women are, the film would have been stronger if a clearer timeline and more interviews with their male military colleagues had been included (although Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders pop up in archival footage). In English and subtitled Spanish.