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Golden Apricot Reviews: "Maro's Secret". (El secreto de Maró): truly truly truly amazing!

By Alex Deleon, Yerevan

"Maro's Secret", at Moskva Theater Red Hall: director Alejandro Magnone starring the amazing Norma Aleandro, age 85.
This actress is truly truly truly amazing!
Rarely does the first film you see at a festival make such an impression that you feel your festival is made right there, even if you don't see another picture.

That was  my reaction yesterday to the  unheralded Argentine drama  "Maro's Secret" starring 85 year old actress Norma Aleandro.

The odd thing is that I was at the Moskva Theater Red Hall all set to see an Armenian  film scheduled at this time and place. When the ambassador of Argentina took the stage to introduce the film  about to be shown it dawned on me  that I was in the right place  at the right time for the wrong picture.  Right place, wrong day... My initial disappointment was, however, soon dispelled when I realized that the picture before me was something quite unusual, a story about the Armenian community of Buenos Aires.  That alone, one for the books ..

The  story is set almost entirely in a traditional Armenian restaurant where  Maró, the highly creative but feisty old chief cook acts as if she owns the place and regards it as a her personal bastion of  Armenian culture although business is now dwindling as a younger video games generation comes of age...
Maro's  secret old country recipes continue to delight the palates of the old time customers but as their numbers decline the restaurant  is coming under threat of closure.

But this is only the set up for the real  far deeper drama to come ....

The film starts out looking like a kitchen comedy with two old cooks arguing over which one uses the best ingredients. They come from different places back in Armenia.

The focus soon shifts to arguments with the management over whether to close down for lack of business, sell out, or -- the unthinkable -- to start serving fast food lunches. Maro  is adamant insisting that they must stay open at any cost to maintain traditional Armenian culture.  Lectures are organized to  inform the straying  diaspora youth of the Genocide which brought their elders here to Argentina.  Maro repeatedly stresses the importance of keeping the Genocide memory alive.  It must not be lost on the youth . She is, however, tight lipped about her own Genocide experiences as a child  in Turkey... 

Along the way we meet an elderly  Armenian gentleman  with whom Mora obviously has an affair of the heart which was never realized and it is now too late. But the few scenes between them are very touching.

We will eventually find out what Maro's culinary secret is  but her deeper secret is to be found in her genocide scars.  These are gradually revealed when a slender hope  arises  that, through a new international census her long lost sister may possibly be found. 

Lost since 1921! -- eighty five years  ago as the current time of the film was established  as 2005 at the very beginning.  The final third of the film centers on Maro's dealing with her inner turmoil, long suppressed. Then, good news.. . Via old arm tatoos the long lost sister  has been  located!   Maro will  go back to Armenia for a  miraculous reunion, but  as she is about to leave, one last matter.   She  picks up her cell phone and calls the gentleman we met earlier.

Purpose, to  inform him how fond she is of him, but at this age she will probably never return -- This is  goodbye.   Maro, who has never cried since the death of her mother now breaks down into tears as friends call to advise her to hurry up for the trip to Armenia.

At this moment can there be a dry eye in the house?

All through the film I was wondering who the marvelous actress playing Maro was.  When the end titles showed  the name  Norma  Aleandro it came as a revelation. The same actress  of the 1986  film  "The Official Story" which won the Best Foreign Language film Oscar that year and a Best Actress award fo Aleandro at Cannes . Now, 35 years later, still going strong at age 85 years young! A supreme actress to say the least.  

Viva Norma Aleandro!


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