Each year around April, movie theaters all over Buenos Aires participate in the exhilarating celebration of cinema known as the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (which is a mouthful, so it will henceforth be referred to by its Spanish language acronym BAFICI).
Hundreds of movies from all over the globe are showcased in this rich and diverse festival, featuring all kinds of styles, approaches, tones and genres–- from side-splitting comedies to slide-of-life dramas to outright bizarre, inexplicable experiments. There’s a wealth of treasures to be found, some strangeness to be scoured through, and a lot of fun to be had in the process.
A festival like BAFICI, which prides itself in its wild eclecticism and its ability to signal-boost tiny little art films from far-off lands, is likely going to have some pretty esoteric stuff as part of its vast lineup. But that’s part of the joy of a film festival like this, a smorgasbord of cinematic expression -– the films that leave you bewildered are as much a part of the experience as the amazing discoveries scattered throughout its impossibly wide selection.
This year, BAFICI celebrates its twentieth anniversary, so we took the time to go through its intimidatingly vast line-up and pull out some recommendations for you. Keep in mind that part of the fun of a festival like this is diving in without being sure what to expect; even though these are ten films we recommend, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a look at the agenda and pick a screening that sounds good to you. You may stumble upon your new obscure favorite.
Check out the BAFICI official website for program details, ticket purchases, and information on additional activities (including a must-see Q&A with legendary director and raconteur John Waters!).
1. Blue My Mind
A coming-of-age drama with a dark fantasy twist, this Swiss film by writer-director Lisa Brühlmann tells the story of a 15-year-old girl going through changes that may be a little more significant than your typical adolescent rebel phase. It promises to be a visceral and thrillingly disquieting experience.
April 14 5:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 15 4:00 PM | Village Recoleta
April 18 10:45 PM | Espacio INCAA Cine Gaumont
Director Bob Byington — a genuine master at mining awkwardness for comedy — is back with a new film written by Onur Tukel (whose vampire film Summer of Blood is one of the most hilariously nihilistic horror-comedies I’ve ever watched). Featuring Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly, Infinity Baby is a satire about a company that delivers babies who don’t age for parents who never want to leave the baby bubble. It is a Byington film, so it is guaranteed to be as hilarious as it is uncomfortable.
April 18 11:20 PM | Village Recoleta
April 20 9:10 PM | Village Recoleta
April 21 10:20 PM | El Cultural San Martín
April 22 9:25 PM | El Cultural San Martín
3. Good Manners
This one is for those of you who like to get spooked at the movies. This gorgeously shot Brazilian film is a darkly disturbing tale about a wealthy mother who hires a nanny for her unborn child, but all is not as it seems (is it ever?!). The film soon spirals into feverish psychological horror, which may send some viewers running out of their seats. Not us, though. We love this stuff.
April 20 10:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 21 2:10 PM | Village Recoleta
April 22 3:15 PM | Village Recoleta
4. Dry Martina
A Chilean film about Martina, an Argentine singer whose attempts to cling on to the glory of her heyday have left her sad, embittered and alone. Shaken by the onset of her 40s and the sudden arrival of a fan who claims to be her sister (and whose boyfriend Martina can’t help being attracted to), Martina takes a trip down to Chile to try to put that faded flicker of light back into her life.
April 17 11:00 PM | Village Recoleta
April 18 5:40 PM | Village Recoleta
April 20 8:15 PM | Espacio INCAA Cine Gaumont
It feels a bit strange to call a film “dystopic” when its landscapes are as rich, vivid and gorgeous as the ones on Mutafukaz, the animated French-Japanese co-production. This visually sumptuous romp takes us to Dark Meat City, a run-down and dangerous place populated by gangs and criminals, and introduces us to Angelino, a biker who is about to develop some interesting abilities.
April 13 11:45 PM | Village Recoleta
April 20 11:45 PM | Village Recoleta
April 22 9:00 PM | Village Caballito
6. La Flor
Mariano Llinás returns with a film that is… 12 hours long?! Look. We get it. This one is a commitment. But we wouldn’t recommend a movie this long if it weren’t for two super-important facts: 1) it is being shown in three parts, each with an intermission; 2) Mariano Llinás’s previous movie, Historias Extraordinarias (which was only four hours long), is a legit masterpiece of Argentina magical realism. La Flor weaves six thrilling stories together in Llinás’s idiosyncratic style, and though we haven’t seen it yet, we have enough faith in the filmmaker to sit through this marathon. Just make sure to hit the bathroom before each session.
(Part 1) April 14 7:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 17 1:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 20 9:00 PM | Village Caballito
(Part 2) April 15 6:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 18 6:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 21 2:00 PM | Village Caballito
(Part 3) April 16 7:30 PM | Village Recoleta
April 19 2:40 PM | Village Recoleta
April 22 6:40 PM | Village Caballito
A beautifully scenic location. An impossibly gorgeous lead. A drug lord. A love triangle. Gang violence. The seedy underbelly of the Turkish riviera. All of these things add up to one of the darkest and most talked-about films in recent memory. Warning: this film is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart, as director Isabella Eklöf’s scenes of graphic violence have left several audience members quite disturbed throughout the festival circuit.
April 14 11:45 PM | Village Recoleta
April 15 2:00 PM | Village Recoleta
April 19 11:00 PM | Artemultiplex Belgrano
Five communication majors attempt to make a movie about Tito Gomez, a legendary actor who gradually starts to take control of the entire production. This whimsical and highly entertaining film explores the relationship between author and subject, as well as the very nature of the entertainment industry.
April 14 7:45 PM | Village Recoleta
April 15 3:00 PM | Village Recoleta
April 18 3:45 PM | Village Caballito
9. Embrace Me
Picture this: you’re out on a date, you’re kind of nervous, you don’t really know where this is going, you can’t quite remember if you put on deodorant– you know, typical date stuff. Then, all of a sudden, your date disappears completely, leaving only a trail of blood. That’s the terrifying premise of Embrace Me, an Argentine horror film that is sure to get your blood pumping.
April 17 11:00 PM | Village Recoleta
April 19 11:25 PM | Village Recoleta
April 21 8:30 PM | Cine Amigos del Bellas Artes
10. Isle of Dogs
The final film in this list (and the final screening of the festival) is Wes Anderson’s hotly anticipated Isle of Dogs, an animated film about a Japanese boy searching for his lost dog in a literal island of garbage. Featuring the director’s trademark wit and beautifully framed aesthetic style, this ridiculously endearing little film oozes charm as much as the aforementioned garbage island oozes toxic waste. What better way to close out the festival?
Remember, these are just a few selections that look good to us. There are dozens of other movies worth watching throughout the festival’s ten days, not just featuring cutting-edge indie films but also screenings of older classics such as Mulholland Drive and Wayne’s World. Check out the entire schedule here.