CULTURE

Insinuating beyond narrative

In 1999 Argentinean cinema hit international shores when Pablo Trapero’s «Crane World» went on the festival circuit, getting critics to sit up and look at the troubled Latin American country’s new film production. Walking in the footsteps of their Nuevo Cine predecessors of the 1950s and ’60s, young Argentine filmmakers, influenced by auteurist cinema, are taking the pulse of their country, both at a time when the political leadership is beginning to slowly make public the documents on the «Dirty War» waged by the 1976-1983 military junta, and also during a period of great unrest in a country that is struggling with a flailing economy and the numerous social, political and cultural ills that come with it. In Greece, the first tribute to new Argentinean cinema was held in 2001 at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Unsurprisingly, the tribute was a great success as it struck a chord with Greek moviegoers, who found they had much in common with young and middle-aged artists that grew up under the shadow of a dictatorship, struggled to rebuild a national identity afterward and now feel that this identity is at risk of being lost to arbitrary, unstoppable global forces. This year, the Thessaloniki festival – beginning on Saturday and running to November 28 – has invited five Argentinean filmmakers to show one film each in a new tribute aimed at showing the developments in what is now being seen as a blossoming industry with international, albeit art-house, appeal. The polemic and widely respected Argentinean film critic Eduardo «Quintin» Abtin writes: «There is in these films a narrative fragmentation, a trend to insinuate something more than what is being narrated, to have the film occupy the spaces that the narrative leaves empty and not just in the story itself. This freedom in the narrative style is accompanied by a great power of observation, more common in documentary filmmaking than in fiction.» «The result,» continues the critic, «is a cinema that in a way opposes the rules that prevail in contemporary international production (still dominant in Argentina), which is interested mainly in fictional films replete with obvious meanings. These films, in contrast, seem to avoid any emphasis whatsoever: They are incredibly precise in their descriptions of their respective worlds and completely different from one another.» In this year’s tribute, Trapero, after winning awards at Venice, Toulouse, Rotterdam, Havana and Buenos Aires, among other festivals, for «Crane World,» returns with «Rolling Family,» a comedy-drama in which an 84-year-old woman who has asked to be the maid of honor at her niece’s wedding compels her entire family to make the grueling 1,000-kilometer road trip with her to the event. Another trip, but this one away from violence rather than toward happiness, is the theme of «Little Sky,» a drama directed by Maria Victoria Menis and Alejandro Fernandez Murray that has received four awards from the San Sebastian International Film Festival. It tells the story of small-time crook and handyman Felix, who helps a young boy escape the abusive atmosphere of his house by taking him with him to Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is the setting for Ana Poliak’s «Pin Boy,» the story of a young man looking to better his fortunes in the Argentinean capital and the friends he makes while working at a bowling alley. Lucrecia Martel, an established Argentinean filmmaker who made something of a splash on the festival circuit with 2001’s «The Swamp,» winning the Alfred Bauer Award in Berlin and other awards at Sundance and Toulouse, joins the tribute with «The Holy Girl,» a surreal drama that won her a Golden Palm nomination at this year’s Cannes festival. This story of a young girl’s spiritual and sexual awakening focuses on 16-year-old Amalia and her quest to save the soul of Dr Jano. After making a strong debut in 2001 with «La Libertad,» 29-year-old Lisandro Alonso returns this year with «The Dead,» which tells the story of a killer who has been released from jail and embarks on a river journey through the jungle.