The Other Argentinean Cinema By Jean-Christophe Berjon

in 23rd Mar Del Plata International Film Festival

by Jean-Christophe Berjon

La Tigra, Chaco, a modest and discreet film, shows the determined and acute talent of a pair of highly sincere directors. Their humble writing is no obstacle to the subtlety of the world they create in their film, full of sensibility and humanity.

Offering a wide selection of Argentinean film without re-running any of the productions already successfully screened at recent festivals — Pablo Trapero’s Lion’s Den (Leonera); Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (La Mujer Sin Cabeza); Pablo Fendrik’s Blood Appears (La Sangre Brota); Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool; Daniel Burman’s Empty Nest (El Nido Vacío) — the international festival of Mar de Plata was the occasion to discover a different aspect of the national cinema production.

Set for the first time in its new schedule — early in November, so as to be Cannes’ perfect opposite on the festival calendar — Mar del Plata was the place to see, as a world premiere, all the latest productions of the country. The Argentinean program was surprisingly oriented toward documentaries: Six documentaries and one experimental film out of fourteen feature-length films screened, with three of those documentaries reaping all the awards bestowed upon Argentina by the festival’s juries. Only four dramatic features were clearly outstanding, depicting four very different worlds. The Artist (El Artista), a cultured, polished and cynical comedy; Gallero, a rural evocation, the formal rigor of which was in some ways Reygadas-like; Vile Romance (Vil Romance), a socially provocative gay portrait that was occasionally clumsy but surprisingly blunt and true, and finally La Tigra, Chaco, which received the International Film Critics prize.

La Tigra, Chaco was directed by newcomers Federico Godfrid and Juan Sasiaín, just out of the film school at UBA, the public university of Buenos Aires. Both are experienced stage directors making their first feature film. A young man, visiting his father, returns to the place where he came of age. He encounters his former love, now grown and more attractive than ever. The plot is simple, classical, predictable. It echoes, among others, Jacques Nolot’s Hinterland (L’Arrière Pays) and to Yves Caumon’s Boyhood Loves (Amour d’Enfance), both of which played at Cannes in recent years. But here, even more than in those films, the tone avoids being too cerebral, or uselessly bright; it’s immensely soft, sensitive, sincere, and subtle. The direction skillfully balances naturalism and expressive interpretation.

The irresistible main actress, the young Guadalupe Docampo — already gaining notice for her work in The Custodian (El Custodio) and Blood Appears — received the festival’s award for Best Argentinean Actress, awarded by the Asociación Argentina de Actores. Her truly moving and subtle performance, and her mastery of her character’s strong accent, are largely responsible for the delightful charm of this initial journey. La Tigra, Chaco, even more than Federico Vieroj’s Acné (Directors Fortnight Cannes 2008), manages to convey the gentle nonchalance, the day-to-day situations, the intimacy of feelings, the freshness and the freedom of interpretation that were so remarkable in 25 Watts, the first movie from Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll. Let’s hope this new pair of talented directors will succeed as well with their second film as did the men who went on to make Whisky.