Argentinian Cinema that Impacts and Endures

in 37th Mar del Plata International Film Festival

by Diego Faraone

Mar del Plata and BAFICI, the two most important festivals in Argentina, usually share the best Argentine premieres of the year. But this year the share that Mar del Plata felt particularly bounteous. Trenque Lauquen, by Laura Citarella, was one of the best titles in competition—and also the longest. El Pampero Cine, its production company, already displayed a penchant for flamboyant duration with La Flor, which was 14 hours long; by comparison, Trenque Lauquen looks like a short: just over four hours, it screened with a 15-minute intermission between its two parts. The story begins with an investigation that, like a matryoshka, hides another investigation inside; there are mysteries that overlap and accumulate, opinions and hypotheses that unfold, but, as in Rashomon, different characters seem to have very different interpretations as to what really happened. Beautiful stories of love and heartbreak are hidden, the relationship between past and present challenges the audience, and there is a really intriguing questioning of life in society and of hegemonic discourses.

If cinema bears the responsibility of documenting and making visible historical-social conjunctures, few films could be more pertinent today than Money Exchange (Cambio Cambio, 2022), by Lautaro García Candela, which gracefully and naturally recreates the dynamics of “los arbolitos,” the moneychangers who have flooded Buenos Aires’ pedestrian street Calle Florida since the economic crisis, trying to capture passers-by with the chant evoked in the film’s title. But it is also an effective thriller, a great romantic film and, above all, social cinema that captures the durability and economic particularities of this peculiar underworld.

La uruguaya is the long-awaited new film from Ana García Blaya, director of the great The Good Intentions (Las buenas intenciones, 2019). An Argentine-Uruguayan co-production, it’s based on the eponymous novel by Pedro Mairal, and was filmed mainly in the city center and old town of Montevideo. It tells of a casual love affair between a married man and a younger woman in an often pathetic, but also painfully recognizable narrative. Although the story is told from the perspective of female characters who question the protagonist and his actions, it is debatable whether it is a truly feminist film or just the opposite. Also controversial is Tres Hermanos, by Francisco J. Paparella, a suffocating and difficult-to-bear thriller, which focuses on the daily life of the titular brothers and their coexistence in a cabin in Patagonia. Their bond, hostile and primitive, but quite realistic, exudes toxic masculinity, triply enhanced and aggravated by labour and economic conflicts.

The documentary One Million Zombies: The Story of Zombie Plague (Un millón de zombies, la historia de Plaga Zombie, 2022) was a big surprise. It delivers an elaborate compilation, an incredible and sometimes delirious handful of anecdotes about the Plaga zombie saga, a series of iconic films from Argentina’s zombie cinema tradition, distributed at the ’90s on VHS, which immediately earned the status of cult films. Plaga Zombie movies, made by teenagers with very little money, a lot of inventiveness, and practically no fear of ridicule, obtained an unthinkable horde of international fans. Nicanor Loretti and Camilo de Cabo, directors of this documentary, are two of these fans, and they offer a ripping tribute, with dedication and affection.

Diego Faraone
Edited by José Teodoro