17th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema

Argentina, April 15 - April 25 2015

The jury

Gerald Peary (US), Paulo Pecora (Argentina), Christian Eugenio Font (Uruguay)

Awarded films

In the background were street demonstrations all over Buenos Aires concerning a city election which, as often happens here, could change the management of the Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI). That election was to be held two days after the conclusion of the 17th BAFICI, the 15th-25th of April 2015. But few foreign guests noticed the political tension, for the festival was as smooth as could be, and monumentally successful under the direction of Artistic Director Marcelo Panozzo and his veteran staff of film-savvy programmers.

What everyone agreed about was that the International Competition of 18 films from around the world was extraordinarily good. All juries mouth the same platitudes at the end of every festival, about how hard it was to pick a winner. Sometimes that’s a lie, because the winner is the slightly best of a truly mediocre lot. Not at BAFICI, Although both the FIPRESCI jury and the International Jury gave their prize to the same film, the masterly Court from Chaitanya Tamhan of India, there was lots of grieving for the really fine works which were left behind.

Of the 18 films in competition, our FIPRESCI jury approved of 12-15 of them, really wonderful viewing. As FIPRESCI can award only one prize, our jury was especially sad that we couldn’t also have a commendation for  Jonás Trueba’s delightful romantic comedy from Spain, Los Exiliados Románticos, with the style and intelligence of Eric Rohmer. Also, we were most impressed by Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb from Jordan, a historic drama which was shot and framed like a classic American western: a bit of Anthony Mann, lots of unexpected Sam Peckinpah. And great gun battles.

Interestingly, BAFICI includes documentaries in its Official Competition, and our jury approved, considering that two non-fiction works in Competition were so exceptional. And so complementary. An Argentine entry was La Mujer De Los Perros, following a year in the life of a woman, perhaps mute, who lives in the wild in a makeshift tent surrounded by her eight loyal dogs. From Switzerland and Germany came Away and Below, about, among other things, the impoverished people who reside in the tunnels beneath glitzy Las Vegas.

Also at BAFICI 2015: a multiple film tribute to Isabelle Huppert. Several raw films from the American indie director, Andrew Silver, who is a BAFICI favorite.  Lots of restored classics in 35mm including Richard Brooks’s In Cold Blood, Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch, and Amalia, a 1914 Argentine adaption of Argentina’s first novel, written in 1851 by José Mármol.

Finally, the other BAFICI prizewinners. Léone, mère & fils by Lucile Chafour (France) in the Avant Garde & Genre Competition; The Princess of France from Matías Piñiero in the Argentine Official Competition; Naval Lapid, Best Director for The Kindergarten Teacher (Israel) in the International Competition.

And one controversy at BAFICI 2015: Choosing Austria’s grueling Goodnight Mommy for the Competition, which some saw as genius, others as torture porn. (Gerald Peary)

Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema: www.bafici.gov.ar