Filming a Strong and Defiant Community By Pablo Suarez

in 7th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema

by Pablo Suárez

Last year, the France-based Argentinean filmmaker Alberto Yaccelini, the director of precious gems such as Volvoreta and Gombrowicz, l’Argentine et moi (screened solely in the local art house circuit), was a privileged guest at the VI Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI) with his most engaging Final con foto .

In Final con Foto, Yaccelini revisited the equine universe (as it was the case with Volvoreta), to the world of cuadreras country horse races in the province of Buenos Aires. In so doing, he revived the cherished craft of photographers known as Photochart. That on the surface, since Final con foto (as well as his two previous films) was indeed about its nominal subject matter, but it largely transcended it to address more existential queries: the remembrance of things past; the effect of the passing of time; traumatic losses, both individual and social; and last but not least the economic crisis Argentina has been enduring, on and off, for many years now.

In the recent VII edition of the BAFICI, Yaccelini displayed his dazzling talent in his new opus, the documentary Los de Saladillo, which received hearty applause at its first public screening; and the FIPRESCI award for Best Argentine Film running in the local competition. Los de Saladillo tells the story of Julio Midí and Fabio Junco, two self-made young filmmakers from Saladillo, a small town in the province of Buenos Aires. For some ten years now, the duo has been producing both feature films with the most basic equipment and starring the townspeople. The films are first released in the only movie theater left in town, and then are shown on local television.

Yaccelini deftly unveils this unique universe and in so doing he draws a picture of larger scope: that of the lives, joys, hardships, dreams and worries of an entire community still deeply affected by the aftermath of Argentina’s 2001 political and economic crisis. As in his previous films, in Los de Saladillo there’s also a very appealing sense of discovery alongside acute exploration. Viewers are introduced to a rich canvas made up of testimonies, short interviews, snippets of the films made by Midí and Junco as well as many other rich details skillfully interspersed from the film’s first frame to the last.

Instead of choosing a predetermined standpoint, Yaccelini exposes and confronts the many shades of his subject matter with utmost narrative precision and thus allows viewers to make up their own minds while – and after – seeing the film. Though the effects of the crisis are to be seen everywhere, there’s also its opposite: the vital struggle to keep up the fight by creative artistic means such as the homemade feature films shot by Midí and Junco. For the townspeople of Saladillo have certainly found nurturing and playful ways that speak of a strong and defiant community unwilling to sink into depression in spite of the country’s almost chronic instability.

Furthermore, Yaccelini once again shows uncanny wisdom to make viewers care deeply for people and situations that, in the hands of lesser filmmakers would not be nearly as appealing. For Yaccelini clearly knows how to take advantage of the freedom offered by the documentary format. Above all, he certainly knows what makes viewers tick and how to capture his audience.