Skip to main content

A Brief History of Argentina at The Oscars

"El Ángel" is this year's official entry, but how will it fare?

By | [email protected] | September 28, 2018 9:24am

Untitled design

Will you take a look at how far little Carlos Robledo Puch has come? Not the real one, of course. He’s still rotting in a jail cell somewhere and stopped being little Carlos Robledo Puch about forty years ago. No, I’m talking about the film one, played by new teen idol Lorenzo Ferro in the hit film El Ángel. 

For one, the crime thriller based on the “too nuts to be true” life of Puch surpassed the one million tickets sold threshold in Argentina and as of this week clocks in at a whopping 1,277,814 spectators, with one of those belonging to yours truly way back in week one of its release. (And one belonging to my wife during a lovely “dinner and a movie” sort of night).

It’s garnered critical attention as well, with our own film critic writing about it back in August. And now, it’s been awarded the highest of honors for a movie, being selected to represent Argentina at the Oscars. This, in the grand scope of things, means very little, since it still has to reach the nine preselected foreign language films before arriving at the five final nominees we all see on screen at some cheesy Oscar party at a friend’s house. So yeah, the road is long, but cheers anyway to director Luis Ortega and his mass killer story.

The Oscars have been kind to Argentina in the past. Along with Chile and Spain, it’s the only Spanish-speaking country to have ever won the foreign language prize, having done so twice. So let’s take a dip into a bit of Oscar history and see what Argentines have been able to achieve in the ceremony.

We’re just gonna focus on winners, although there have been several who reached the final stretch and missed out. Here’s a list of those: La Tregua (1974), Camila (1984)Tango, no me dejes nunca (1998),El Hijo de la Novia(2001)and Relatos Salvajes (2014)Thank you all for your services, you’ll find a complimentary swag bag at the door.

Dios Se lo Pague (1948)

The Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscar was created in 1956, but even before that an Argentine film had already left its mark with a special prize in 1948. That movie was Dios se lo Pague, by Luis César Amadori and came out of what many consider the golden age of Argentine cinema that had begun in the ’30s. It’s rich in black and white, plots derived from classic Hollywood archetypes and, oddly enough, no Ricardo Darín to be found. Yes, I know, bummer. Oh, and it also has one of those movie posters that really seems to look great in a game room above a pool table.

La Historia Oficial (1985)

Coming into the 58th Academy Awards in 1985, Luis Puenzo’s masterpiece had been collecting some heavy award buzz. It had already screen at festival powerhouses like Cannes, Toronto, and Berlin and garnered a Golden Globe, the second for an Argentine film after La Mujer de las Camelias in 1953.

But by Oscar night, with its main actress Norma Aleandro slated to present the award, few could’ve predicted that La Historia Oficiawould take home the golden statue.  Aleandro herself was in charge of opening the envelope to reveal the winner and once she did, well…

La Historia Oficial was a tremendous achievement in its day. It managed to dig deep into the core of the moral consequences of the recently concluded military dictatorship as well as the emotional scars it left behind. The film also received a heavy boost at the box office thanks to its Oscar win, almost doubling the number of tickets sold once it was relaunched.

As a curious tidbit, the movie also starred a very young Pablo Rago, the only actor to have been cast in both La Historia Oficial and El Secreto de sus OjosArgentina’s other Oscar winner. Kudos, Mr. Rago.

El Secreto de Sus Ojos (2009)

After striking out with the lovely El Hijo de la Novia in 2001 (seriously, I still cry like a child when I see this film and feel obliged to call my mom immediately), director Juan José Campanella had a second chance at taking home the gold with his El Secreto de sus Ojosa blockbuster that managed to put 2,457,396 people in the seats (again, with one of those belonging to yours truly. What can I say? I love me some Argentine films).

The competition was specially fierce that year in the foreign language category with arthouse favorite Michael Haneke competing with The White RibbonFrench blockbuster A Prophet and even another Latin American film in competition, La Teta Asustada from Peru. Once Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino stepped out to present the award (talk about cinema royalty) it was anybody’s guess as to who was going to come out on top. Drumroll please…

Graced with some of the most outstanding technical achievements in Argentine movie history (yes, I’m talking about that scene in the stadium) El Secreto de Sus Ojos also has the dictatorship as a backdrop, while also serving as a love story, a murder mystery and even some comic relief courtesy of Mr. Guillermo Francella himself. The movie was so good it managed to receive the greatest form of flattery Hollywood can dish out: a crappy remake.

Individual Awards Over the Years

Throughout history, there have been several individual winners at the Oscars who deserve mentions all by themselves. One is Gustavo Santaolalla, composer and producer extraordinaire who managed to pull of winning the award for best score in consecutive years, for his work on Brokeback Mountain and Babel

Other winners include Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone for their work as cowriters in 2015’s BirdmanNicolás Schmerkin for his amazing 2010 animated short Logorama, Eugenio Zanetti for production design in Restoration in 1995, and Luis Bacalov for the score of Il Postino in 1996.

So, Does El Ángel Have a Chance?

Honestly, right now, it’s anybody’s guess. Those in the industry know that it might not be enough to be a great movie, or even an excellent one. With the announcement of El Ángel’s submission as Argentina’s representative, begins a long road of international lobbying that will be just as important to ultimately decide the film’s fate.

If you wanna get superstitious, then here’s a bit of fuel for your fire: this will be the first year that Ricardo Darín himself has been included as an Academy voter, and you know who’s acting opposite Lorenzo Ferro in El Ángel, right? Darín’s son, known as El Chino, that’s who. I know, I know, mindblowing, right?

The 9 Shortlisted Films looking to reach the final round will be revealed at some point in December 2018