Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Armando Bó will make a new feature film based on the life of former Buenos Aires Herald editor Robert Cox and his heroic struggle to hold Argentina’s brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship to account for their crimes.
Through his production company About Entertainment, Bó has snapped up the rights to a screenplay penned by The New York Times Magazine journalist Michael Steinberger, which in turn is based on Dirty Secrets, Dirty War: the Exile of Robert J. Cox, a book written by the former editor’s son, David Cox.
The intention now is to rewrite and tweak the script, before moving onto casting and eventually production, the director told local media this week in a series of press interviews.
Bó, 42, won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Birdman in 2015 with the film’s director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, and his cousin Nicolás Giacobone.
He also penned 2010's Biutiful starring Javier Bardem and has directed two features, The Last Elvis (2012) and Animal (2018). Since 2019, he has worked on El Presidente, the Amazon Prime Video series that dramatises the 'FIFAgate' corruption scandal in world football.
Bó’s as yet untitled new film, which he will produce and direct, will focus on Cox, the editor of a small English-language newspaper who took on Argentina’s brutal military junta in the late 1970s with journalism, printing articles about horrors the dictatorship sought to conceal and shining a light on the thousands of individuals who were disappeared.
“While other media outlets hid the reality of what was going on, Cox and a group of courageous journalists embarked on dangerous investigations into the forced disappearances of individuals, defying censorship and threats to confront high-ranking military officers and demand the truth,” said About Entertainment in a statement to the press.
Under Cox’s direction, for example, the Herald was “the only media outlet to broadcast the stories of the desperate Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, compiling lists of the disappeared, saving the lives of many detainees and risking everything to expose the reality in search of justice,” it added.
“It is a source of pride for me, as an Argentine, to be able to tell this story ,with its true heroic protagonist and his family. An unknown story but one full of bravery, courage and integrity," said Bó, who said this week that the film would be a dramatisation of events.
Interestingly, the director revealed that the script had reached him via the United States, rather than via local channels. He has recently returned to Argentina after several years living in Los Angeles and said he has been looking for a story that’s closer to home for some time.
Cox – no stranger to Times readers as both an occasional columnist and honorary editor – said he was “absolutely delighted” by the news and the man at the helm.
“Speaking for our family as a whole, I must say that we are absolutely delighted that Armando Bó has chosen to make a film about the Buenos Aires Herald, based on the book by my son David,” said the 87-year-old.
“There have been other filmmakers who wanted the rights to the book, but none match Armando. We know his work, particularly Birdman and the sad, funny and uproarious The Last Elvis,” he said.
“Our story and that of the Herald is an Argentine story and I cannot think of anyone who could bring so much intimate knowledge of Argentina, amazing talent and originality to the unnerving task of capturing the horror of the country during the years of terror, up to and through the dictatorship.”
In a series of press interviews this week to celebrate the news, both the film’s subject and director talked up the importance of the story and its potential impact. Cox said he hoped that the story would challenge those who continue to deny the crimes of the military junta.
“I think that in telling a human story of our family and the people who worked at the Herald, the truth will be more accessible. For Argentina to heal, the past must be revealed in every possible aspect, shining a light on every aspect of that time when evil reigned,” said the journalist.
"We must learn from those terrible years and the most important lesson is that democracy requires a free and fearless press to survive,” he added.
“There are still people who evade the truth about the past, similar to those who deny the Holocaust. I believe that this film can help to bring people together to overcome the horror of the past and make a better future,” concluded Cox.
This new film is the second feature based on Cox and his years with the Herald, following the 2017 documentary Messenger on a White Horse, directed by Jayson McNamara.