8 Things You Should Know About the Cinema of Argentina
Together with the Brazilian and Mexican cinemas, the movie industry of Argentina features as one of the most developed in Latin America. In spite of the fact that its more recent movies seem to focus on social and economic issues faced by the Argentine urban middle class, telling deceptively simple and direct stories, we find that, deep down, they encapsulate universal truths and offer interesting and ironic insights into the human nature. The acting is usually restrained, subtle and terrific, which makes it a pleasure for more sophisticated viewers, who can’t stand the pasteurization, sameness and loudness of the average Hollywood performances. Here are some interesting facts about this vibrant industry:
1. Despite the universal recognition of the quality of the Argentine movie industry, it was severely affected by the Military Junta in the 1970s, due to repression and censorship. The industry started to recover in the 80s, and now it’s back to its former standards of excellence and originality.
2. Argentina occupies the number 1 position for Goya Award winners in the Best Foreign Movies category. It has received 14 prizes.
3. The only Latin American country to boast Academy Awards, Argentina has won Best Foreign Language Movie Oscars for the films The Official Story (1985) and The Secret in Their Eyes (2009). Read the summaries of both movies below.
4. The Official Story: is the moving drama of an upper-class history teacher, Alicia (played beautifully by Norma Aleandro), who lives with her husband Robert, a government agent, and their (illegally) adopted daughter, Gaby, in the Buenos Aires of the last years of the brutal military dictatorship of the 1970s and 80s. Alicia, like the other members of her socio-economic class, are not fully aware of the horrors and killings the dictatorship inflicted on the country she lives in. However, she begins to suspect her daughter’s real parents were among the “desaparecidos” (missing people, tortured and killed by the military Junta at the time) and sets out to discover the truth.
5. The Secret in their Eyes: the retired investigator Benjamín Espósito (played superbly by Ricardo Darín, the iconic face of the Argentine cinema for most of us) is trying to write his first novel, but can't get past the initial pages, as memories of the most important fact of his life keep haunting him, interfering with his concentration and trying to find their way into the novel. The fact, which happened 25 years before, was the rape and murder of a young and beautiful woman, whose case he was assigned to solve. At the time, with the help of the victim’s husband, he examines old family photographs and identifies a recurrent character in some of the photos: a young man whose eyes are constantly turned towards the victim, in an adoring gaze. Espósito knows he has found his man. The murderer is caught and convicted – in a series of scenes whose originality, humor and deep understanding of the human heart are mixed together, making up the best part of this brilliant movie. But the murderer is soon freed, due to political rivalries and enmities Benjamin had cultivated at work in a time where the law in Argentina was not easily enforced, due to the brutal dictatorship the country lived under. The victim’s husband is inconsolable. Hadn’t Benjamin promised him the criminal would remain in prison for the rest of his life? From then on, the viewer is taken on a roller coaster of emotions and clever plot shifts leading up to an astonishing and unpredictable end. The American version of the movie has just come out.
6. The new Argentine cinema focuses on depicting and critiquing the urban social reality of the country. Among its most famous contemporary directors, we find Pablo Trapero (Crane World); Lucrecia Martel (The Headless Woman); Daniel Burman (Waiting for the Messiah); Juan José Campanella (Son of the Bride) and Fabián Bielinsly (Nine Queens).
7. According to IMDb, the 10 most popular Argentine movies of all time are: The Secret in their Eyes (2009); Wild Tales (2014); The Motorcycle Diaries (2004); Jauja (2014); Nine Queens (2000); XXY (2007); The Aura (2005); Chinese Take-Out (2011); Son of the Bride (2001) and Carancho (2010).
8. Among the best actors in Argentina, we have the universally known Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens); but also: Guillermo Francella (The Secret in Their Eyes); Leonardo Sbaraglia (Wild Tales); Rodrigo de la Serna (The Motorcycle Diaries), Darío Grandinetti (Wild Tales), Soledad Villamil (The Secret of Their Eyes); Dolores Fonzi (The Aura); Erica Rivas (Wild Tales); Cecilia Roth (All About My Mother) and Sabrina Garciarena (Felicitas).
If you haven’t had the chance to experience the Argentine cinema yet, grab a couple of movies available on DVD, or pick any of the few offered by Netflix: you will not regret it.