19th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema

19th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Argentina (April 19 - April 30, 2017)

The remark that could be heard from the theater halls was relatively the same: BAFICI (Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema) is in good health and it continues to be a launching pad of crucial importance for most of the avant-garde Argentine Cinema. It is also offers one of the few opportunities to watch the latest works from many fundamental, modern auteurs in unbeatable conditions. Nevertheless, the distribution of the films chosen for the official selection is in need of a revamp, as the idea of highlighting a specific area of the programme for both general public and trade press by attributing it to a "competition" status has started to run out of steam, when there are almost a hundred films included in a total of six contests.The Latin American Competition (LAC) was born last year, and it is the youngest of the six. Being young, however, does not imply immaturity. Unlike the Avant-Garde & Genre competition (such flexible terms that allow almost any film to be included), the LAC is a clear curatorial criterion and can be observed in the selection of eight films which fall outside of the standards of this region's productions and what succeeds in the main film festivals in Europe, as was stated by the programmers in presenting each of the screenings. The eight films present a wide variety of aesthetic wagers and filmmaking techniques. They had a common interest - to portray the issues related to identity and the numerous elements that form and define it. From the weight of its legacy at the present time, these include; A Faraway Land (Un suelolejano), A secret in the box (Un secreto en la caja); looking at human environments, The City of the Future (A cidade do future), winner of the selection; and to the social and economic status, the particularly good Samba and Andrés Reads and Writes (Andrés lee i escribe- and even the geographical area where it takes place, like Carrion (Carroña). Accordingly, even the more modest films had the peculiarity not only of being set in a specific time and place, but these variables were also crucial in determining the actors’ fates. This is considered a great virtue at these times in which, as the film industry is stuck in the 90's (that applies to Hollywood as well as "festival films") they all pretty much look alike. It was not by chance that the best film from this selection was also the one which had the cleverest and most original approach to matters of identity.

A Secret in the Box - the winner film - is, as stated in the catalogue (thought a warning about these kind of spoilers in the synopsis would not be a bad idea), a fake documentary about an Ecuadorian writer named Marcelo Chiriboga, who allegedly remains as one of the best kept secrets of the Latin American Boom during the 1960s and 1970s. If this name sounds familiar it is due to the namesake’s character, created by writers José Donoso and Carlos Fuentes, in their novels. Izquierdo - winner of the FIPRESCI award - imagines not just a life but also a work for his character. Both life and work, which are accurately depicted and put together with timely but inauthentic archival material and a firm belief suggest that indeed this character existed, but fell victim to the widespread yet unfair oblivion. There he will be, writing a novel about a soldier on duty at the border with Perú, marrying a German actress during his exile and even taking part in the unforgettable interview show "A fondo", hosted by journalist Joaquín Soler Serrano. The most striking feature of Izquierdo's film is the way he takes advantage of this device to sneak in the history of Ecuador during the 20th century. The history is largely shared by all the countries of the region and, at the same time, it shows that identity is a mortar shaped by political, cultural, social and personal movements. The result is an ironic and full of humour reflection on the past, as well as the present and the future. It is also a clever mise en abyme of the documentary genre itself. All in 70 minutes. (Ezequiel Boetti, edited by Tara Judah)

FIPRESCI PRIZE

A Secret in the Box Un secreto en la caja A Secret in the Box
(Spain, Ecuador, 2017, 71 mins) Jury: Isaac León Frías (Peru) , Rodolfo Santullo (Uruguay) , Ezequiel Boetti (Argentina)


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Photo: Thomas Hoepker. It shows German philosopher Robert Havemann and songwriter Rolf Biermann in East-Berlin, 1975.

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