108 (Cuchillo de Palo)

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 amassed 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. 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.

"The style is simple but the emotions highly sophisticated...Patiently photographed by Carlos Vasquez, 108 peels back layers of delusion and dishonesty."—The New York Times

"Highly political without ever once veering into tiresome or abrasive preachiness. For all the oppressive horror it reveals, the film is nevertheless quite lovely, in its methodical peeling away of the camouflage that clouded so many gay lives in the past."—Film Journal International

"Offers a deeply felt angle on the broader realities of life in Paraguay during the '80s." - The Hollywood Reporter

"Enchanting...achieves a rare and foregiving synthesis, as though Costa were attempting to transcend the micro and macro details of her uncle's tragic life."—Slant Magazine

"Full of quiet artistry…Costa understands the power of awkward silences, holding the camera to explore discomfort and her own accusatory gaze. Even when discussing the horrors of the dictatorship, she maintains an unwavering calm that cuts through the hedging and the calculated avoidance of larger issues-hers is a selfless righteousness that nevertheless confronts her personal history."—Jay Weissberg, Variety

[Director Renate Costa Perdomo] herself cuts a powerful figure, her determined, laser-beam stare demanding nothing short of the full truth. She masterfully weaves together the personal and the political, and eventually finds a few simple but powerful words that sum up the need for her father and his generation to come to terms with their personal responsibility for colluding with the government, but also for her own generation's need to find understanding, compassion and forgiveness."—Paul Sbrizzi, Hammer to Nail

"Extraordinary. 9/10."—PopMatters


Main credits

Costa Perdomo, Renate (film director)
Costa Perdomo, Renate (screenwriter)
Andreu, Marta (film producer)
Benito, Susana (film producer)

Other credits

Cinematography and camera, Carlos Vásquez; editing, Núria Esquerra, Carlos García.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Civil Rights
Cultural Studies
Family Relations
Gay Studies
Human Rights
Human Sexuality
Latin American Studies
South America
US & Canadian Broadcast Rights
Women's Studies


Renate Costa; Renate Costa Perdomo; 108; Cuchillo de palo; 108 Cuchillo de palo; Cuchillo de palo 108; gay; Paraguay; Latin America; family history; blacklist; investigation; homosexual; uncle; noir; South America; transvestite; useless knife; father; daughter; neice; home; blacksmith; forgery; "108 (Cuchillo de Palo)"; Icarus Films; "108 (Cuchillo de Palo)"; Icarus Films

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