wed 24/07/2024

Argentine Film Festival | reviews, news & interviews

Argentine Film Festival

Argentine Film Festival

London's first season devoted to one of the world's most exciting film scenes

The inimitable Ricardo Darín stars in 'Chinese Take-Away'

A couple of years ago a retrospective season for the BFI sought to reflect the filmmaking renaissance across South America that started at the end of the 1990s, and simply hasn’t stopped. Freed from the shackles of dictatorship and economic hardship, a young generation of directors were producing some of the best films in the world.

It was never going to be easy to choose just 20 to reflect that, but our task as curators would have been a lot easier if one country, Argentina, wasn’t producing quite so many wonderful films.

The Argentine Film Festival, at London’s Ritzy this weekend, is a first step towards giving Argentine cinema the individual showcase it deserves. Surprisingly, given the number of London seasons dedicated to national cinemas, this is the first devoted to Argentina. It’s a modest start, with seven features, a documentary and a selection of very special short films, over four days. But we’re hoping it will whet the appetites for a regular event.

This isn’t a selection by established filmmakers – Pablo Trapero, Lucrecia Martel, Lisandro Alonso, Daniel Burman, Carlos Sorin, Martín Rejtman, that endless list of world-class directors who have put Argentine cinema on the map; rather, my colleagues and I wanted to focus on new films, by the next generation.

back to stayArgentina’s biggest star, the inimitable Ricardo Darín, leads the festival’s opening feature, Chinese Take-Away, an engagingly oddball comedy which was the country’s biggest box office success of 2011. Among the award-winning debuts are Back to Stay (pictured above right), a superbly nuanced and wry drama about three sisters coping with the death of the grandmother who raised them, the deeply affecting road movie Las Acacias, and Medianeras, a witty and hugely inventive romantic comedy that takes in architecture, neurosis and the internet, while providing a lovely little snapshot of life in Buenos Aires. There’s a nice sense of the city, too, in the documentary Caprichosos de San Telmo, about the carnival tradition of murga.

We’ve stepped away from the contemporary twice, once for a selection of short films from Argentina’s silent era, which offer a captivating glimpse of Argentine life at the beginning of the 20th-century (a decision that we made, I’m happy to say, before The Artist ignited interest in cinema’s earliest days) and to remedy one of those unavoidable omissions from the BFI season – with the terrific, totally one-off thriller The Mugger, which was made in 2007 at the height of the New Argentine Cinema revival.

As ever when countries are taking chunks out of each other (I’m thinking of the recent rumblings over The Falklands/Malvinas), the best response is to look to and appreciate each other’s culture and creativity. That’s why, this weekend, Brixton is the place to be.

It's a first step towards giving Argentine cinema the individual showcase it deserves

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