‘¡Las Sandinistas!’ Review: Women Remember Revolution in Nicaragua

Posted November 20, 2018 3:39 p.m. EST

The documentary “'¡Las Sandinistas!” compiles the reminiscences of women who fought with the Sandinistas, the revolutionary group in Nicaragua that toppled the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979 and then ruled that country until 1990.

In focusing on the testimonies of women, this film by Jenny Murray aims to memorialize what one participant, poet Daisy Zamora, calls the “revolution inside the revolution.” It argues that, despite chauvinism and sexual harassment from the movement’s male leaders, the Sandinistas were as groundbreaking for feminism as they were for ostensibly socialist governance.

The film takes its cues from activist and historian Dora María Téllez, a former Sandinista military leader who later served as minister of health. She is seen on TV making the case that, under the rule of Daniel Ortega, the once and current president of Nicaragua, the accomplishments of other leaders were being erased from popular memory. (A closing text says none of the women in this film are credited in official revolutionary museums or monuments.)

But while the recollections have been assembled to tell the Sandinistas’ story in a vaguely chronological order, they haven’t been edited into a clear through line: Excessively detailed accounts of guerrilla campaigns share space with broad encomia to the spread of literacy and other achievements under the post-revolution government. The structural murkiness might lead viewers to overlook that government’s crackdown on civil liberties, for instance.

For a movie trying to push back at popular perceptions of history, “¡Las Sandinistas!” could stand to be more lucid.

“¡Las Sandinistas!” is not rated. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.