San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Award-winning La Penca documentary opens in Costa Rica

The final installment of Peter Torbiörnsson’s filmmaking career is raking in international accolades. On Tuesday, Torbiörnsson, who directed the recently released documentary “Last Chapter: Goodbye Nicaragua,” said the film won the grand prize for documentaries at the Nordisk Panorama 2011 Film Festival in Denmark. The festival featured 20 documentaries from the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Torbiörnsson’s native country.

“It’s a fantastic honor for this old 69-year old,” Torbiörnsson told The Tico Times in an email.

The documentary, which follows Torbiörnsson’s difficult life journey, retells the story of the bombing at the La Penca press conference on May 20, 1984. Four rebels and three journalists, including Tico Times reporter Linda Frazier, were killed. Torbiörnsson, who was injured in the blast, was accompanied to the press conference by a Danish photographer using the alias Per Anker Hansen. Hansen, later found to be leftist Argentine spy Vital Roberto Gaguine, brought the bomb to the press conference in his camera case. Torbiörnsson said his association with the bomber has forever haunted him and caused unshakeable guilt.

“The reason I made this documentary was because I no longer want to be the guy involved with the bomber at La Penca,” Torbiörnsson said in an interview with The Tico Times in early September. “I don’t want to continue to have to clarify that I wasn’t involved. I did nothing” (TT, Sept. 16).

“Last Chapter: Goodbye Nicaragua,” which premiered in Nicaragua in late August, includes gripping footage of the war between U.S.-backed Contra rebels and the Sandinistas in the early 1980s. Torbiörnsson said the film took nearly six years to complete and that he considered it to be his farewell to Nicaragua and filmmaking.

“I tried to forget La Penca for a long time. My friends said it would be wise just to drop it, but I could not. It changed the lives of so many people. You don’t forget a thing like that,” Torbiörnsson said. “It is my last film. I’m old now. I set out to prove something with this documentary and I think I succeeded. Hopefully now I can allow my mind to rest.”

The film also won the Giraldillo de Oro prize for best European documentary at the Seville Film Festival in 2010.

“Last Chapter: Goodbye Nicaragua” will premiere Friday in Costa Rica at the CCM theater in Mall San Pedro and at Cinepolis Terramall, east of San José. Torbiörnsson is expected to attend the premier of the film.

For more on the Nordisk Panorama Film Festival, see:

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