11th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema
Argentina, March 25 - April 5 2009
Buenos Aires Festival Internacional del Cine Independiente. With a sprawling program of 417 films, and endless program catalogue, and over one thousand screenings, it’s well known that the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI) is surely the premiere event for independent cinema in South America. Having dipped my toes into the Abasto Plaza Hoyts cinema for four times now, I can also attest that it is a suitable reflection of general trends in contemporary world cinema. Sergio Wolf’s second edition as director impressed in both breadth and depth; the cinemas, as usual in movie-hungry Buenos Aires, were regularly packed, whether for new films or retrospectives on modern masters Jean Eustache and Jean-Marie Straub (to name two); dialogues were presented with filmmakers as wide ranging as James Benning and José Mojica Marins; the environment was, well, festive. If something seemed slightly lacking, it was not the fault of the programmers, but the state of world cinema at large, and also a so-so year for Argentinean cinema, whose blossoming at the turn of the millennium became one of the initial reasons for the growth of the festival and its attractiveness as a destination for international programmers and critics alike, and is now reflected in the business activities of the Buenos Aires Lab (BAL) where works in progress are presented alongside coproduction meetings.
This year’s winner of the sidebar Argentine competition and 150,000 pesos, Alejo Moguillansky’s Castro, stood alongside Matías Piñeiro’s They All Lie (Todos Mienten) — which resided in the International Competition, winning a Special Jury Mention and the prize for Best Argentine Film — as the two standouts of this year’s crop. (It was also one of three titles to which our jury gave serious consideration.) The two films have a common pedigree, sharing a producer (the director of last year’s Historias Extraordinarias, Mariano Llinás), multiple actors, and a surprising influence, for this reality-heavy cinematic landscape: Jacques Rivette. (Also of note for followers of Rivette: Hugo Santiago’s seminal Argentinean film, Invasion, is now available in a luxury two-DVD box set with accompanying book, in English and French translation, from the Malba label.)
Any festival charged with assembling an international competition of 18 first or second features — such as BAFICI, which was the focus of our FIPRESCI Jury — is a victim of circumstance of its own creation. It would be nice to say that all of the films were terrific, as is often said in such circumstances, but the two standouts were justly recognized by both the FIPRESCI jury and the official jury of the International Competition (whose esteemed ranks included Claire Denis, Kent Jones and Alberto Barbera). Having already honored the festival’s eventual champion, Miguel Gomes’s otherworldly Our Beloved Month of August (Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto), in last year’s Viennale, we awarded a film fresh into what will be an extensive festival run, Maren Ade’s seemingly simple tour-de-force Everyone Else (Alle Anderen). No mere runner up, Ade’s sophomore feature also took home the main prize for Best Director, and could have easily won prizes for both lead actors as well. Hell, it could have won everything else. (Mark Peranson)
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema: