To make a documentary about a period in history such as that of Paraguay’s dictatorship under Stroessner – a first- person account based on personal and family research – may at first appear ill-conceived. The present article on ‘Cuchillo de Palo’ by director Renate Costa looks at how the performative or poetic documentary can provide a highly effective means of activating historical memory of an intensely traumatic period such as this. The work analyzes how the documentary, driven by Costa’s personal motivations and concerns, paints an accurate and unforgiving portrait of the silence and fear inherent in the terror of dictatorship and the many disciplinary resources at its disposal. Her portrait also captures the bloody repression of homosexuality and the virulent homophobia deeply ingrained in Paraguayan society. This article aims to understand how the director – using photographs, documents, interviews and oral testimony – produces a filmic text in which the micro leads into the macro-story. Family conflicts evolve into generational conflicts and, ultimately, into the societal breakdown and reconciliation of the country in the aftermath of the traumas of dictatorship. Here we see a connection between filmic documentary and editing – the cornerstone of this journal – as creators of stories and generators of knowledge.