El Equipo (The Team)

An unlikely collaboration between a forensic scientist from Texas and a group of Latin American students changes the course of forensic science and international human rights.

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Independent Lens, Voces
Premiere Date
October 9, 2023
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2023 Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival-Best Feature
  • filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz

    Bernardo Ruiz

    Bernardo Ruiz is a two-time Emmy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker. He has directed and produced four feature documentaries, including The Infinite Race (ESPN’s 30 for 30, 2020), Harvest Season (Independent Lens, 2019), Kingdom of Shadows (Participant Media, 2015) and Reportero (POV, 2013) as well as a host of nonfiction programming. 

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    Gabriela Alcalde

    Gabriela Alcalde is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. She has worked on the producing teams of the Emmy Award-nominated documentaries, The Forever Prisoner (HBO, 2021) and Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (A&E, 2017). She collaborated with Ruiz on Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground (PBS, 2020).

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    Editor / Co-Producer

    Fabián Caballero

    Fabián Caballero is an Argentine-Bolivian documentary filmmaker based outside of Los Angeles, California. He co-edited the Emmy-nominated The Interpreters (Independent Lens, 2019) and also co-edited Barbara Kopple’s Emmy-nominated Desert One (TIFF, 2019).

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    The Film

    In 1984, Dr. Clyde Snow, a legendary U.S. anthropologist known for his work identifying the remains of Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele and the victims of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, traveled to Argentina to help uncover the fates of the estimated 30,000 people who were forcibly disappeared during the 1970s dictatorship. Unwilling to work with many of the established scientists who had collaborated with the apparatus of the dictatorship, Snow set about to train a new group in the use of forensic anthropology. He eventually met a group of medical and anthropology students – some as young as 19 – and the team was soon digging up an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The group, which included Mercedes (Mimi) Doretti, Patricia Bernardi, and Luis Fondebrieder, would go on to not only help establish accountability for the crimes committed under the Argentine military junta, but to initiate a decades-long relationship with investigative journalists working on parallel tracks to create a fact-based accounting of massacres and state-sponsored crimes in over 30 countries.

    After Argentina in the 1980s, the film follows the story of Mimi Doretti and fellow co-founder Patricia Bernardi as they traveled to El Salvador in the early 1990s to investigate the 1981 El Mozote massacre. Then from El Salvador to the team’s 1997 discovery and exhumation in Bolivia of the remains of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, whose whereabouts had been a mystery since his killing 30 years earlier. And finally to Mexico, where the team investigates the 2014 forced disappearance of 43 students in the town of Ayotzinapa. 

    Throughout these cases, we see this unique investigative team doggedly working behind the scenes to establish the facts for the families of the victims in the face of intense political opposition and as their work becomes increasingly difficult and more dangerous with each dig.