Calling all cinema fanatics! From August 19th to September 19th we’re celebrating Argentine Cinema Month. This is an opportunity to switch off the Hollywood rom-com you were thinking of re-watching on Netflix for the seventh time (Mean Girls again?) and take a trip to the cinema to watch one of the new Argentine films released this winter.
The Institute of National Cinema and Audio-Visual Arts (INCAA) got together with the Ministry of National Cinema to offer a 50 percent discount to watch Argentine films at the cinema for the upcoming four weeks. The discount runs Sunday through Thursday and showcases a huge diversity of films from rom-coms, to thrillers, to documentaries. This is everyone’s chance to fangirl at all the new movies produced by the country’s critically acclaimed talents.
Ticket prices have skyrocketed, and what used to feel like a relatively cheap date spiraled into an extremely expensive one, when you take into account your (obligatory) box of popcorn and drink. However, this month cinema is far more accessible than ever before, and this gives an opportunity for any Tom, Dick, and Harry to revel in the new national artistic output. At Cinemark in Palermo a ticket is just AR $130, saving you enough to treat yourself to a midnight chori to lift your spirits after an emotionally draining film.
Argentine cinema has grown significantly in the last decade, and more and more films have been introduced at the world’s most acclaimed film festivals. Today, the film production is as artistic and innovative (arguably) as that from France, India or the UK. To name just a few, 2009’s El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in their Eyes) has become one of Argentina’s most successful films ever and received the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2010. The crime thriller brought something new to the cinema scene and is still widely watched today.
Equally 2014’s Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) was nominated for an Academy Award and subverts the Hollywood normalities of one single narrative in favor of unique format of running six short films, one after each other into a feature-length film.
This winter is no exception to the usually bountiful production of premieres. In August so far, during the most recent long weekend, local production accounted for six out of ten of the cinema tickets sold, exceeding the Hollywood premieres.
We have picked a few of our favorites to watch, so pick up your pochoclo and a thick coat (please can it be summer now?) and make your way to the theater.
El Amor Menos Pensado
This rom-com directed by Juan Vera stars Ricardo Darín, a familiar face to most porteños and internationals alike, alongside Mercedes Morán. Darín is a household favorite and one of Argentina’s greatest talents, so take that as a good sign. The narrative is relatable to many people who have been (and/or still are) in long-term relationships that are not quite what they used to be. It describes a couple, Marco and Ana (Darín and Morán), who have been married for over 25 years.
It paints a quiet, almost inevitable separation where the passion begins to fizzle out like someone pissing on a fire. It then follows the amusing sexual and emotional encounters both partners experience as newly single individuals. The film has racked up 580,000 nationally sold tickets, which is an entirely respectable figure. It definitely is not up there with some of Darín’s classics but it does make a pleasant trip out to have a laugh with your mom.
Mi obra maestra
This dark comedy written and directed by brothers Andrés and Gastón Duprat gives us a slice of what it’s like to live and work in the enigma that is art world. It stars Guillermo Francella and Luis Brandoni who are two close friends: Arturo (Francella), an art dealer, and Renzo (Brandoni) a suffering artist. Renzo fits the image of the once-widely recognized artiste who degenerates into a ‘has-been’ whose career is in shambles. Their friendship is as up-and-down as Renzo’s rollercoaster career and their ultimately close brotherhood is deeply heartwarming.
Everyone hates a spoiler, so I won’t unfold the ins and outs of their adventures, but it’s definitely one to watch with both a tissue, a hand to hide behind and a large drink to slurp in awkward situations. Andrés Duprat is the current director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires so the brothers have deep family roots within the industry; the film may feel a little too close to home for those involved in this scene.
The Duprat duo are brilliant at gently humoring the industry without full-on trolling, which is a difficult balance to acquire! Although it was released on August 16th it will be officially released internationally on August 30th at the Venice Film Festival.
Re-igniting a spark in a stagnant life in your mid-40s seems to be a recurring theme this winter, as similarly to El Amor Menos Pensado, the new movie Re Loca starring Natalia Oreiro is also about eschewing monotony. However, this film takes it a step further. This film is branded as a female-empowerment movie and perhaps is more relevant than ever after the recent movements sparked by the abortion debate.
It follows the life of Pilar (Oreiro) who decides that instead of swallowing the everyday sexism and belittlement that she experiences as a working woman in Argentina, she should fight against it. She is thus branded as loca, but instead of resisting this “hysterical” branding, she embraces it by repeatedly doing insane things, such as smashing car windows and living completely sin filtro.
The film is actually based on the Chilean film Sin Filtro (2016) starring Paz Bascuñán. I will let you decide whether the protagonist’s choice to live unfiltered is an expression of owning gendered slurs, or if it, in fact, reaffirms any preconceptions.
Paramount Pictures has acquired all Latin American distribution rights to the film which marks it as the Hollywood studio’s first local movie in Argentina, and you can very much see the Tinseltown effects through its slightly over-polished feel and pause-for-laughter moments. Apart from the slightly stiff Americanisms, the film is great for a debate and is sure to cause an interesting discussion post-movie sesh.
Directed by Luis Ortega, El Angel is already recognized as a huge success despite only premiering on August 9th. The film has already been seen by 745,000 spectators in its first 12 days of its release. You may well have seen the film stills plastered all over Buenos Aires and are most probably aware of the plot. It is set in the 1970’s and like many spine-chilling films it’s “inspired by true events” although critics have questioned how aligned the story of serial killer Carlos Robledo Puch and Lorenzo Ferro‘s portrayal are.
The viewer’s connection with the protagonist is deeply unsettling and continues to confuse us throughout the entirety of the film. The relationship goes deeper than love-hate, and instead enters into a realm of empathy-repulsion toward this sociopathic individual. Ortega’s depiction of innocence left critics perplexed as to why he chose to leave out less amusing “antics” of this murderer, such as his brutal rapes and kidnapping.
I would say that there are some severe ethical implications of the director’s manipulation of how much violence we see, as his violence toward women is so white-washed.
Pensando En Él
For something a little different, Pablo Cesar’s film about Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo is a beautiful production filmed in both India and Argentina that you should keep your eyes peeled for. It is filmed in both black and white and color, flicking between the two as we move between the present and past. Cesar tells the story of the platonic and spiritual relationship between two writers who met in 1924: Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, played by Bollywood and Hollywood actor Víctor Banerjee, and Victoria Ocampo, played by Eleonora Wexler.
Tagore’s Bengali poems are truly beautiful, and his writing paints such a beautiful picture of Ocampo: “Exotic blossom, I whispered again in your ear/What is your language dear/you smiled and shook your head and the leaves murmured instead” (Poem Exotic Blossom, translated by Monish Chatterjee 1992).
Cesar introduces us to Ocampo, not just through Tagore’s poems and letters but though Wexler’s impeccable performance. Ocampo was raised in a high-society Argentine family, and later became an advocate for women’s rights and fought against conformist values. The film taps into the importance of the human relationship with nature. It also stresses how we should let go of fear in order to understand the universe and our place within it. If the film sparks an interest in the writer, you can visit Ocampo’s home that she donated to UNESCO in San Isidro on the weekends; you can see opening times here. The film premieres on August 30, so make sure you write in your diary and do not get it confused and turn up a couple of days early.
There is such a rich diversity of films available at the moment, so we should all take this opportunity to enjoy our national cinema at a cheaper price: you could even go twice to get your money’s worth if you can’t choose!