16th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema
Argentina, April 2 - April 13 2014
When Marcelo Panozzo assumed the position of director of the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (Bafici) in 2013, the way he differentiated himself from his predecessors was through his audacity: to search for films whose seemingly irreconcilable aesthetic proposals could coexist at the same event. “Avant-garde and Genre” — two diametrically opposed terms — was more than the name of a new competition section: it was the symbol of a renewed and even subversive spirit that spread across the festival’s whole program from competitive sections to retrospectives. Naturally, establishing a new program line is not easy or instantaneous, and, so far, the effort has been characterised more by enthusiasm than success. Even if Bafici shows very different films side-by-side, it does not mean that they talk to each other or that they have the same audience. Let’s put it another way: it’s hard to believe that a fan of Frank Henenlotter’s trash eccentricities (like Basket Case) could be as passionately sensitive to the poetic spirit of Cao Guimarães’ cinema, or vice versa. Both had their retrospectives at the festival, but probably the viewers stuck to their own preferences rather than sampling the “temptations” of the fetsival’s organizers, who offered too many dishes of different flavors.
However, as Bafici has historically been an avant-garde event, most viewers will certainly look for films corresponding to the festival’s identity — not out of snobbery or disdain for other styles, but simply because it is hard to see these kinds of films outside festivals. It’s hard to believe that given a choice of more than 400 films from over 40 countries this year — an offer that allows moviegoers to be picky and choose their own path — the public would end up watching an old and well-known Hollywood production like Big (Penny Marshall, 1988), with Tom Hanks, whose charming and conventional film is frequently broadcast on television. In that sense, Bafici remains a space more likely to surprise the audience (for better or worse) with avant-garde films than with genre cinema.
The official awards reflected the fact that Bafici can expand its range but — fortunately — continues to be dominated by art house cinema, like Fifi Howls from Happiness, Iranian filmmaker Mitra Farahani’s extraordinary documentary centered on the painter Bahman Mohasses, which won the international competition. Our FIPRESCI jury also focused on this competition, and gave its award for best film to Mauro, by Argentine director Hernán Rosselli, which also won a special jury prize. It is perhaps the best expression of Panozzo’s dream: a very simple film that easily could be labeled as genre cinema, with an energy, simplicity and astonishing narrative economy that’s rare for a new director.
In the international competition, among the 18 titles were films of different origins, inspiration, and production models, from the remarkable documentary about rock star Nick Cave (20,000 Days On Earth, by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard) to José Antonio Guayasamín’s Carlitos, a mediocre Ecuadorian film about a mentally handicapped young man. This contrast, that could be attractive on paper, was disappointing because of the uneven quality of the films. This year it was very clear that taking many risks can also mean making many mistakes. (Jorge Morales)
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema: