One Man and a Baby

in 26th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema

by Ramiro Cristobal Muñoz

An urban delinquent emerging from the great magma of the hungry and unemployed rural world has a passion for someone else’s baby, maybe the little brother he never had or the child he will never have. The love for one another, a non-conventional love, is the driving force of El Cielito .

This succinct story, however, does not exhaust the possibilities and suggestions of one of the most original films to come out of the splendid nursery of recent Argentinean cinema. This picture, conceived structurally as a dramatic crescendo, has a first part, which takes place on a small fruit farm in the Pampas , inhabited by a married couple and their baby, and a young farm hand who has stopped his roving to seek temporary employment there for bed and board. The violence in the couple’s relationship and the possible violence towards the little one, is what provokes the young farm hand to set himself up as the child’s protective shield. The beautiful images, set off by the sound track, rising from nature – the fruit trees, the crates and jars full of ripe fruit and marmalade, the wind, the river, the insects, etc – are the quasi telluric counterpoint of human violence and of another kind of more remote violence, social violence, which has got to do with the lack of work and economic difficulties. There is something of an inevitable and unalterable fate in the beauty of that Pampas , which will affect those human beings trying to survive in it.

At this point, the movie could have had some easy and conventional solutions, which were, fortunately, avoided by the film director María Victoria Menis. She takes the misery and the sadness to its highest point and shuns the kind of development we find in The Postman Always Rings Twice . Thus, there will be no adulterous love, nor conjugal crimes; only the sorrow and despair that wear themselves out, and escape. The desperate flight of the youth and child, the search for their “little heaven” (“cielito”), of a place in which they could find happiness, takes them to Buenos Aires . Here the landscape turns urban, hard and rough, with the big city noise for a background, and the lack of communication, and the selfishness of “every man for himself” as the only experience. In Buenos Aires , in a modest boarding-house room, Félix, the rover from Paraná, and Chango the baby, will play their last happy game. Just enough time till the little money they have runs out – alleviated for a short space by a street robbery – and the really hard life starts, with the nights spent out in the cold and the begging as a way out. The ending, brave once again, adds the finishing touches to this little contemporary tragedy.

Basing the film on a true story, taken from the police columns of a newspaper, which stated that during a shooting, a young delinquent asked for someone to look after a child he said was his own, the director and the script writer constructed a tale without making any concessions, challenging the easy and conventional reactions from critics and audiences. Other points in its favour is the wonderful acting on the part of its few main characters and the telling silence that never comes between the viewer and the expressive and rich images.

Ramiro Cristóbal Muñoz