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Independent film Tango in Buenos Aires

INDEPENDENT FILM TANGO IN BUENOS AIRES


Buenos Aires---Establishing a reputation as the Sundance of South America, the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema is now in full swing, with an ambitious program of international discoveries and thoughtful retrospectives. But this is not the Sundance of glamour, glitz and goody bags. The Festival is more like the Sundance of ten years ago....a more intimate, less glossy affair where the film faithful come to uncover new talents and absorb new ideas and trends in filmmaking.

Now in its 7th edition, the Festival, which began on 12 April and runs through 24 April, is presenting more than 300 films from around the world. The main venue is the Hoyts Cinema multiplex, located in the vast Abasto Shopping Center, a reconverted 19th century railroad station that houses some of Buenos Aires’ most hip clothing and specialty stores.

Most international guests are housed in the 5 star Abasto Plaza Hotel, located across the road, turning the Avenida Corrientes into a kind of Croisette with film professionals, producers, directors and critics dodging the legendary Buenos Aires traffic to rush to the latest screening from a new indie talent from Chile or China.

The Festival has three Competition sections. The International Competition draws upon a host of Latin American, European, Asian and North American films, all making their South American premieres at the event. Highlights have included: The Irrational Remains (Germany), a story of disaffected people in the former East directed by Thorsten Triimpop; Mongolian Ping Pong (China), the tale of the contrasts of modern Chinese society told through a wistful anecdote, directed by Ning Hao; The Time We Killed, American director Jennifer Todd Reeve’s moody exploration of alientation in New York City; the Spanish film The Sky Turns, by Mercedes Alvarez, a charming tale of small town rural life; L’Esquive, a shocking tale of life and survival in the Arab suburbs of modern France by director Abdellatif Kechiche; Italian director Saverio Costanzo’s Private, a recreation of a real event in the embattled West Bank when Israeli soldiers occupy the home of a proud Palestinian family; and Duck Season, a highly original Mexican coming of age film that uses deadpan humor to great effect, as directed by Fernando Eimbecke.

The Argentine Competition has been among the Festival’s best attended sections, with local audiences enthusiastically interested in the works of its young directors. This section is also among the most popular for the international distributors and programmers who are in attendance, including representatives from festivals such as Toronto, Venice, Gothenberg, London, Locarno and Pusan.

Films in this section generating the most buzz include Como Un Avion Estrellado/Like A Crashed Plane, a simple film of pure emotional power about the frustrations of youth who do not trust their futures, directed by Ezequiel Acuna; Do U Cry 4 Me Argentina, a fascinating look at the Korean immigrant community in Buenos Aires, directed by locally born Bae Yon Suk; Judios En El Espacio/Jews In Space, director Gabriel Lichtmann’s witty exploration of one Jewish family’s life in contemporary Argentina; Vida En Falcon/Living In A Falcon, a disturbing look at the marginal lives of older pensioners in Buenos Aires who are forced to live in their cars, directed by Jorge Gaggero; and Como Pasan Las Horas/The Hours Go By, director Ines de Oliveira Cesar’s moody exploration of familial love.

Argentine short films have their own competition section and these showcases have been particularly well attended by young people, who are in tune with the often nihilistic energy of many of the offers. This country, which is still recovering from the economic crisis of five years ago, is very attuned to stories about survival and transcendence. In many ways, the films from the local Argentine film talents reinforce this sense of tangible desperation that, despite all odds, must be transcended if life is to go on.

The Festival’s largest section, the Panorama, is an ambitious program of films from around the world. The Festival has sub divided the Panorama into various strands with such intriguing titles as Paths, Cinema of the Future, Spaces Under Stress, Nocturne and People and Personalities. More on this section in a later article.

The Panorama also features a strand devoted to Music, including such films as Finnish director Mika Kaurismaki’s Brasileirinho, an exploration of Brazilian traditional music; Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, a devotional documentary to the blazing singer songwriter who died too young; Dig!, a punk battle of the bands Sundance favorite about the rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and The Jonestown Massacre; director Antoine Fuqua’s blues celebration Lighting In A Bottle; and UK director Michael Winterbottom’s soft core porn meets rock concert film 9 Songs.

In a country that is still sifting through one of its most terrible incidents of the past decade, the bombing of a Jewish Community Center that killed and injured over 100 people in the early 1990s, the Festival has made an effort to showcase the Jewish experience in one of the Panorama sections called Something Jewish. Films included in the section include Capturing The Friedmans, US director Andrew Jarecki’s devastating portrait of a family whose ordinary world ends when the father is convicted as a sex offender; Palindromes, a kaleidoscope new work by celebrated US indie director Todd Solondz; Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox’s international hit Walk On Water; Hollywoodism, Jews, Movies and the American Dream, a documentary exploring the role of Jews in the creation of the Hollywood studio system by Canadian director Simcha Jacobovici; and Hitler’s Hit Parade, German director Olivier Axer’s fascinating look at the popular film and music culture of Hitler’s Germany, an escapist cultural immersion shielding its citizens from the brutality of war.

As if all this was not enough, the Festival has assembled an amazingly diverse retrospective program which highlights the careers of such singular talents as silent film pioneer D.W. Griffith, Belgian existentialist Chantal Akerman, photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank, subversive animator Bill Plympton, auteur B movie director Monte Hellman, direct cinema provocateurs Albert and David Maysles and local hero Carols Echeverria.

With films screening from 10:00am till 2:00am the next morning, one hardly has time to explore the world outside the cinemas, the heady atmosphere of tango bars, music clubs and Buenos Aires’ legendary nightlife. The world is contained inside these theaters, and in the films that are showcased. International. Independent. Inspiring.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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