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No Ser Dios Y Cuidarlos

By Diego Zerpa Chang
Published August 25, 2008

No Ser Dios Y Cuidarlos delves into the one-of-a-kind experience provided by Buenos Aires’ Centro Universitario Devoto (CUD)—an educational program founded more than 20 years ago by the University Of Buenos Aires (UBA), and operating within the walls of Argentina’s infamous Villa Devoto maximum-security penitentiary.

Argentine directors Dieguillo Fernandez and Juan Carlos Andrade show us that inside the CUD, prisoners are not just numbers—they’re individuals with names, looking for another kind of escape and trying to change their lives by studying for a university degree. Each with a criminal past, it’s clear that they’re not considered victims, but their violent history certainly doesn’t preclude them from suffering, or feeling emotions, or even being moved to tears. With daily visits from UBA professors, the 300-plus inmates enrolled in the program take advantage of critical thought to reflect on what led them to their respective crimes. When they tell their stories, they become human beings whose warm childhood memories are harshly tempered by the reality of life behind bars.

No Ser Dios Y Cuidarlos literally means Don’t Be God, But Care For Them, and brims with a litany of personal interviews with prisoners, UBA professors, judicial authorities, legislators and penitentiary officials. Viewers come face-to-face with candid testimonies like the one given by a business school student named Daniel. “The CUD is a chance to do something good with your life,” he says. “It’s a chance for a better future for your wife and children, especially after you’ve hurt them so much.” A law school student named Jorgelina, locked up for selling drugs, delivers a keen insight into prisoners’ rights: “Some people may wonder whether we have the right to study,” she says. “Nothing is free here. We don’t pay with money, we pay with other things. Coming here to study, getting up every morning to come here and put your best foot forward and giving the best of yourself— that’s not free.”

One law student named Adolfo, who finished his studies after being released, sees the CUD as much more than just an educational program. “The truth is, I went to jail because I was desperate,” he recalls. “I was in the incomer’s ward, it was summer, and about 10 or 15 days after I was put in jail, I looked out the ward window and I saw some of the guys. I asked what they were doing, and they told me that they were in the CUD. And I asked, ‘What’s that?’ And they said, ‘That’s the place to study.’ The CUD saved my life.”

In the end, No Ser Dios Y Cuidarlos is a lasting testame