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Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, The (kurze Leben des José Antonio Gutierrez, Das)

Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez, The
Scene from "The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez" (photo © Tag/Traum Film)

José Antonio Gutierrez was one of the 300,000 soldiers sent by the US Army to war in Iraq. A few hours after the war began, his picture was broadcast all over the world: he was the first American soldier to be killed in the war. He was there as a so-called green-card soldier – one of approximately 32,000 fighting in the ranks of the US Army for a foreign country.

The film tells the moving and nearly unbelievable story of a one-time street kid from Guatemala, who headed north along the Pan-American Highway – full of hopes and desires for a better future – ultimately to die an American hero far from home.

Searching for the images and stories that made up this life, we set out to retrace José Antonio’s path – from Guatemala through Mexico and into the USA.

This story is told by the people who knew José Antonio: his friends from the street, the social workers at the orphanage, his sister, his foster family, his comrades at Camp Pendleton in the United States Marines.

But the narrators of the film are also the people we encountered as we were repeating José Antonio’s odyssey from the world of the poor to the world of the rich. People who day after day join the endless stream of emigrants – with no identity, no papers – equipped with nothing but their ability to work and their willingness to turn their backs on home and family forever.

José Antonio’s story is no adventurer’s tale. It is the story of an attempt to survive – on both sides of the world.


Heidi Specogna was born in 1959 in Switzerland. From 1982-1988, she studied Directing at the German Film & Television Academy (dffb) in Berlin. She also lectures in Documentary Filmmaking at the Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg and the Lucerne Art School. Her films include: Die Beichte (short, 1983), Die Faehrten (documentary, 1984), Das Indianerkind (short, 1985), Das Schwinden der Schwelle (documentary, 1987), Dischibuti (short, 1988), Tania La Guerrillera (documentary, 1991), Deckname Rosa (documentary, 1993), Z-Man\'s Kinder (1995), Tupamaros (1996), Kaprun (documentary, 2002), Eine Familienangelegenheit (documentary, 2004), Zeit der roten Nelken (documentary, 2006), The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez (Das kurze Leben des José Antonio Gutierrez, documentary, 2006), The Goalgetter\'s Ship (Das Schiff des Torjaegers, documentary, 2010), and Die Ermittler (documentary, 2010).
Genre Society, Biopic
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2006
Director Heidi Specogna
Screenplay Heidi Specogna, Erika Harzer
Cinematography Rainer Hoffmann
Ursula Hoef
Hans Koch
Producer Gerd Haag
Production Company TAG/TRAUM Filmproduktion/Cologne, in co-production with PS Film/Zurich, Specogna Film/Berlin, ZDF, ARTE
Length 90 min
Original Version
 Spanish & English with German commentary
Subtitled Versions English, German
Festivals Sundance 2006, Djerba 2006, Munich 2006, Locarno 2006, LALIFF 2006, Rio 2006, Havana 2006, Goeteborg 2007
With backing from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, BKM, Bundesamt fuer Kultur (Switzerland), UBS Kulturstiftung, Migros Kulturprozent

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