Pedro Costa and Renate Costa as seen in 108 (Cuchillo de Palo), a film by Renate Costa. Picture courtesy Icarus Films. All rights reserved.


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108 (2010/2013)

Also Known As: Cuchillo de Palo

Opened: 03/18/2013 Limited

Maysles Cinema03/18/2013 - 03/24/20137 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Spanish Documentary (Spanish w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated


When Rodolfo Costa was found naked on the floor of his home in Paraguay, he had been dead for days. Though ostensibly jobless, he had mysteriously ammassed a small fortune. He also had a secret alias--Hector Torres--and a secret life.

At the time, Renate Costa Perdomo was a young girl. Asked to select her uncle's burial garb, she found his closet empty. Surely the lively, colorfully-dressed Rodolfo she knew could not, as those around her claimed, have died of sadness.

In her powerful debut feature, which unfolds like a mystery novel, Costa Perdomo investigates the shadowy circumstances of Rodolfo's death. Witnesses and clues gently reveal Rodolfo's true identity as a persecuted gay man and the terrifying "108" homosexual blacklists that ruined lives, careers, and families.

The film is also a fascinating portrait of the relationship between the filmmaker, who has left Paraguay and now lives in Spain, and her now-divorced father, Pedro Costa, who remains in the family blacksmithing shop (pictured below). 108 is a moving illustration of the impact that the right-wing dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay from 1954 to 1989, had on the so-called "108"s living in the country as experienced by a single Paraguayan gay man and his family.

Selected Festivals

  • World Premiere, 2010 Berlin Film Festival
  • Winner, Best Film, Buenos Aires Human Rights Film Festival
  • Winner, Best Film, 2010 One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Prague
  • Winner, Best Ibero-American Documentary, 2010 Guadalajara Film Festival
  • Official Selection, 2010 Documenta Madrid
  • Official Selection, 2010 Festival de Cannes
  • Official Selection, 2010 Espoo Cine International Festival, Finland
  • Official Selection, 2010 Etats Generaux du Film Documentaire, Lussas
  • Official Selection, 2010 Latin Beat Film Festival, The Film Society of Lincoln Center
  • Official Selection, 2010 Viennale
  • Official Selection, 2010 Vancouver Film Festival
  • Official Selection, 2010 Two Riverside Film Festival, Poland
  • Official Selection, 2010 Bergen International Film Festival, Norway
  • Official Selection, 2010 Miradas Doc, Spain
  • Official Selection, 2010 CPH:DOX, Copenhagen
  • Official Selection, 2010 IDFA Amsterdam
  • Official Selection, 2010 Festival International du Film de Belfort
  • Official Selection, 2010 Mostra de Cinema e Direitos Humanos na America do Sul, Brazil
  • Official Selection, 2010 BOZAR, Palais des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles, Belgium
  • Official Selection, 2011 Zinegoak Bilabao
  • Official Selection, 2011 Goteborg International Film Festival, Sweden
  • Official Selection, 2011 Docs Barcelona
  • Official Selection, 2011 IF Istanbul Film Festival
  • Official Selection, 2011 Black Movie Geneva Film Festival, Switzerland
  • Official Selection, 2011 Muestra de Cine Realizado por Mujeres de Zaragoza y Huesca
  • Official Selection, 2011 San Diego Latino Film Festival
  • Official Selection, 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival

Director's Statement

It was winter. My father called us urgently. My uncle's naked body had been found lying on the floor. A crowd had gathered at his corner. The police dispersed onlookers. My relatives were there. They asked me to go inside and choose the clothes in which he would be buried. I opened his wardrobe: It was empty. When I asked them what he died of they told me: "Of sadness". That answer contradicted all my memories of his life.

Rodolfo was the only one among my father's brothers who didn't want to be a blacksmith like my grandfather. In the Paraguay of the eighties, under Stroessner's dictatorship, he wanted to be a dancer.

This is the search for traces of his life and the discovery that he had been included in one of the "108 homosexual lists", arrested and tortured. Still today in Paraguay when someone calls you "108" they mean "faggot." For more than one generation, the duration of Stroessner's dictatorship, men who came under suspicion of being homosexual or against the regime were the favorite target of collaborators.

Rodolfo's story reveals a part of the hidden and silenced history of my country. A film where two generations come face to face: the generation that lived under the dictatorship and is keeping silent and the generation that, living in democracy, doesn't have anything to say because nobody remembers the real meaning of "108".

In the family and in the country, the same photographs have been hidden. As if nobody had the courage to question anything: the same way of looking down, the same prejudices, the same secrets under the carpet, the same silences. There is no film about this period. To keep silent in order to forget. To hide In order to erase memories.

A personal quest made of few certainties and many questions often without an answer. Questions that will allow us to discover the relationship we construct with the past, and how this relationship defines our own present. A film that is ultimately about each one of us.

"108" was born out of a reaction and the necessity of confronting the anger and pain that comes from seeing people's willful ignorance in the face of clear evidence. It arises from the need to film in order to bring to light that which is hidden, as a base from which to establish a commitment to reality.

In the blacksmith's workshop, Rodolfo was a "Cuchillo de Palo", "a useless knife", during the dictatorship, when anybody who thought or acted differently was subject to repression. A life condemned to silence, even within the family. "108" is an intense inner process in search of acceptance and reconciliation: the acceptance of Rodolfo, the father, society, and history, in order to reconcile with our past.

In front of the camera, people remember, contrasting their memories with the confused, associative memories of childhood. An attempt to reconstruct an image of the persecuted, the hidden, the "abnormal" in the words of the people who speak or avoid speaking, and by doing so, to capture the image of a society which was and still is imprisoned in a certain intolerance, silence and passivity.

Filming the present in order to recover a past that allows us to gain a better understanding of where we come from and to recognize who we are. Life turns out to be made of shadows too. This is what gives it meaning.

Confronting what we haven't lived through means accepting that we carry the burden of history, family and society, whether we are aware of it or not. The film makes part of the "unofficial history" visible through a personal story, which proves to be universal. This issue is not only related to the past and to Paraguay. It can make us think about how society's and individual's acceptance of identity can be crucial to the construction of a community's way of thinking. The film is an immersion into the difference of the "other" and in this way, a reconciliation with what each of us is made of. In the end, we all have to learn how to live with our ghosts.

Director's Biography

Born in Asuncion, Paraguay in 1981, Renate Costa Perdomo graduated in Audiovisual Direction and Production from the Paraguayan Professional Institute. She studied Documentary Filmmaking at the International Film School of San Antonio de los Banos, Cuba. Since 2006 she has lived in Barcelona, where she obtained her Master in Creative Documentary from Pompeu Fabra University and developed "108".

In the field of documentary production, she worked in Paraguay as producer of "Candido Lopez -- Los campos de batalla" (Jose Luis Garcia, 2005; Audience Award at BAFICI; Best Film, Best Script and Best Documentary at Condor Awards 2006) and as a member of the production staff of "Os caroneiros", a TV documentary co-produced by Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. In fiction films she has collaborated in "Paraguayan Hammock" (Paz Encina, 2006; Fipresci Award at Cannes -- Un Certain Regard).

As a director, she debuted in 2007 with the short documentary film "Cheyvotymi - Mi pequena flor" which she also produced. She directed 13 episodes of the TV documentary series "Histories of the way", created by Jorge Rubiani and produced by Canal 4, Telefuturo. " 108" is her first feature film.