Argentina in the Screen Mirror

in 24th Mar Del Plata International Film Festival

by Kirill Razlogov

The Argentinian films in Mar del Plata turned out to be a deception. I wonder why? More or less recently I have shown in my TV Programme on the Russian Kultura Channel several films that I saw as signs of a Renaissance, announced by several influential Western critics. My choices have been more or less obvious: from Tan de repente (Suddenly, 2002) by Diego Lerman to mini-retrospectives of Lucrecia Martel and Ana Katz. No trace of this New Wave in Mar del Plata. Genuine crisis? Curators’ choices? Competition of other film events? Quien sabe?

So the main discoveries to be made are through documentaries. Not that their directors have been especially original and creative, but at least there you could find traces of old and recent traumas.

The Islands (Las Islas) from Italian Antonio Cervi explores the history of Falkland Islands – Islands Malvinas without evident bias but with a firm Argentinian accent. Historical facts and maps sustain a dubious thesis that whoever discovers the territory owns it. Nevertheless the exploration leads to a different image, that of kaleidoscopic changes: whoever wins, rewrites the history. It’s true for the Islands, it’s true for Argentina, and it’s true for whatever country.

Fathers of the Plaza de Mayo – 10 Possible Ways (Padres de la Plaza: 10 Recorridos Posibles) by Maximo Joaquin Daglio – the only documentary mentioned by the Jury – includes a series of interviews with elderly fathers who did not join the mothers of young people who disappeared during the dictatorship, in their historical demonstration on Plaza de Mayo. Ten views, each one rewriting recent history to flesh out a concrete biography, have some things in common, but are mostly of interest for their divergences.

By contrast the interviews of elderly ‘inmates’ of the tourist resort Chapadmalal (dir. Alejandro Montiel) pretend to be philosophical but are mostly dull and self indulgent. No news in this small city.

On the contrary the short portrait of an old homeless anarchist, Ramon Rojas – Dreams of Huts (Ramon Rojas – Suenos de Chozas), by Maria Rosa Andreotti is much more convincing: the attaching hero stays true to himself whatever happens with biting irony. A good reminder that in documentary filmmaking finding the right character is no less important than painting the portrait.

From this point of view the masterpiece of the selection was La Raulito. Low Blows (La Raulito. Golpes Bajos). The director Emiliano Serra follows the famous Boca Juniors’ fan in the last months of her life. Maria Esther Duffau, called La Raulito, is the character of characters. Thirty-five years ago she was portrayed in a feature film called La Raulito by Marilina Ross, now she comes back as herself, more interesting and shocking than ever.

The sensation of the festival was The Sins of my Father (Pecados de mi Padre), an Argentinian-Colombian co-production (dir. Nicolas Entel) telling the mythic story of the drug lord Pablo Escobar Gaviria from the perspective of his son Juan Pablo Escobar. But even here the traditional narrative technique prevails.

The only truly original film was Red Orchestra (Orquesta Roja), directed by Nicolas Herzog where a combination of fiction and reality recreates a fantastic scam by three old political activists, desperately trying to defeat capitalism again on April 5th, 2000. There is still hope, if not in the move against globalism, at least in the art of filmmaking in Argentina.

Edited by Tara Judah