Guillermo Pérez Roldán Confidential (Argentina/2022). Script and direction: matias gey Photography: Alvaro Chaccon Vera. Song: Joaquin Gomez. Available in: Star+. Our opinion: Okay
“I tell you the last. As a coach I was good, for sure. The rest…” With an ironic, cynical and carefree smile and words that are open to more than one interpretation, the final testimony of Raúl Pérez Roldán lowers the curtain on the documentary series that adds image and sound to a shocking episode in the Argentine tennis life.
Everything that Pérez Roldán hides around that enigmatic “the rest…” was enumerated in a shocking way and with the maximum detail by his son Guillermo, one of the most outstanding protagonists of national tennis in the 1980s, throughout the years. three episodes of this new production made in Argentina from the series Confidentialregistered trademark of the National Geographic channel (made in this case together with the local producer Bourke), available on the Star+ platform.
These resounding confessions of Guillermo Pérez Roldán involving his father are not new. The former tennis player and current coach, who lives today in Chile, spoke for the first time of the physical and psychological abuse to which his father Raúl subjected him for a long time in an interview published in THE NATION in May 2020 and made by Sebastián Torok. At the beginning, the series recognizes through a plaque that Guillermo had already made this situation public, but that interview that opened the door to this entire production is not mentioned either there or in the final credits.
In front of the cameras, Pérez Roldán’s detailed testimony takes on even more chilling aspects. Almost everything he told him in that note appears here ratified through the moved words of the former tennis player, who several times seems about to break. But there is one more detail, perhaps the one with the greatest impact, which remained unpublished until now: when Guillermo Pérez Roldán admits that he had two failed suicide attempts, the first with a weapon and the second at the wheel of a car on a curve taken at extremely high speed. “Having failed was the signal that he had to continue,” says the former tennis player.
Situations of physical abuse (punches, blows with an open hand or with a belt, physical demands as disciplinary punishment for setbacks in important matches) and verbal abuse occupy a good part of the 104 minutes of the series, divided into three episodes: two of 36 minutes each and the rest, 32. To reinforce these testimonies, the production decided to illustrate them through animated resources.
Each episode begins with the warning, in a printed caption, that there will be “graphic descriptions of abuse.” They are recurrent and very explicit vignettes, similar to moving comic strips, presented in black and white and with only one detail in color: the red of the blood that flows from the victim’s body. The effect achieved by this resource, designed with basic, direct and concrete strokes, is immediate.
Ultimately, the documentary functions as a chronicle of how family abuse ruined Guillermo Pérez Roldán’s sports career, made up of promising triumphs and an early succession of sporting and economic successes. The former tennis player expands here what he told THE NATION about how his parents emptied his accounts and seized without explanation the millions of dollars he had earned as a professional tennis player.
Hay a key contrast that defines what is most powerful and attractive about this production: it is what separates Guillermo’s painful testimony from the curt and evasive answers of his father, who never denies or refutes the allegations of abuse while trying to hide them with babble and justifications hard to hold. Like when he talks about discipline as the axis of conduct that he imposed in his successful tennis school.
Outstanding colleagues of Guillermo Pérez Roldán were trained there, such as Juan Mónaco and Mariano Zabaleta, who also make up the team in charge of production and research for this series. In the documentary, almost all the outstanding figures of Argentine tennis contemporary to Guillermo Pérez Roldán speak: it is up to Mónaco and Zabaleta (who at one point will define Raúl Pérez Roldán as a “psychopath”) to provide two of the most extensive testimonies; others, like Gabriela Sabatini, are barely seen. Also revealed here for the first time in chilling detail is a similar case of recurring abuse by former tennis player Graciela Pérez, another student (and first victim) of Raúl Pérez Roldán. She gets to say before the cameras that due to the physical abuse of his coach he ended one day with a disfigured face and had to hide from his own family.
Added to these contributions are no less valuable explanations by journalists Gonzalo Bonadeo, who alludes to a very different context from the current one that seemed to be much more tolerant of situations of abuse, and Guillermo Salatino, who spoke of Guillermo Pérez Roldán as “ the future Guillermo Vilas”. Around all this is configured a documentary series with a rather conventional format, narrated with some chronological inaccuracy and a single visual resource to show the places chosen in the search for testimonies: aerial shots made with drones in Tandil, Mar del Plata and some small European cities.
The value of some stories is sometimes lost behind a suffocating and insistent soundtrack, an electronic version of the minimalist formulas coined by Philip Glass, which in this case is heard, especially in the second episode, at too high a volume. And we must also regret the absence of subtitles when we see archive images with a story in Italian or listen to the testimony in English of former tennis star Ivan Lendl.
Behind all these formal details, the most important thing will always appear: the drama of Guillermo Pérez Roldán and the confession that he was the victim, over and over again, of the mistreatment of a father who was unwilling and unwilling to repent. The certain and visible feeling that this link can no longer be reversed leads the painting to take on even more harrowing edges.