Streaming Spotlight - Argentinian filmmakers

A selection of Latin-America's finest

by Amber Wilkinson

The Secret In Their Eyes
The Secret In Their Eyes

It's been a while since we turned our Streaming Spotlight on a country, so this week we thought we'd turn our attention to Argentinian filmmakers. As with all country focus pieces, it's disappointing to learn about films it is not yet possible to stream - on which note, I urge you to look out for El Aura, and the other films of Fabián Bielensky along with early films from Juan José Campanella like Son Of The Bride and more recent films, including Santiago Mitre's Paulina. If you're looking for more inspiration, check out our Stay-At-Home Seven.

The Secret in their Eyes, Amazon, from £2.49

Remade in English in 2015, with an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman - the original is far superior. Juan José Campanella crafts a dense and twisting thriller about retired court employee Benjamin (Ricardo Darín who as one of Argentinian cinema's leading lights is, inevitably,  going to pop up a lot in this feature)  who is writing a book about a case he can't shake from his mind. The film unfolds as an increasingly tense hunt for a murder that spans a quarter of a decade, but also features unrequited romance and enjoyably comic turn by Guillermo Francella as Benjamin's, often subordiante, subordinate. This beat off stiff competition from the likes of Jacques Audillard's A Prophet and Michael Haneke's White Ribbon to take home the Foreign Language Oscar. Watch it, if only for the incredible shot when a camera swoops in to a football stadium that will leave you wondering how on earth it was achieved for a long time afterwards. Campanella told us a bit about how he managed it here, plus read our full review.

Wild Tales, Amazon Prime, from £3.49

This crafty collection of short tales from of the unexpected from Damián Szifron is packed with barbed humour and satirical observations about the dark heart of humanity. Featuring the great and the good of Argentine cinema including Ricardo Darín - who else? - Darío Grandinetti and Leonardo Sbaraglia, there's not a chink in the armour of this roster or six shorts, that range from a post-marriage meltdown to a diner waitress considering vengeance. Even if you like your humour to come with bite, watch out, or this will have your arm off. Another Argentinian director dabbling in the waters of English-language film, his next The Misanthrope, has Shailene Woodley attached. Read our full review.

XXY, BFI player, on subscription

Ricardo Darín may have been the big name in this outstanding debut from Lucía Puenzo but he is more than matched by Inés Efron in one of her earliest roles. They play dad and daughter, Kraken and Alex, who are dealing with all the usual teenage parent and child issues, further complicated by the fact that Alex is intersex. Puenzo handles the subject with care, keeping the focus on the emotions experienced by Alex and those around her, while allowing a debate about choice and nature and, of course, the nature of choice to emerge. Puenzo is currently working on an English language film, Losing Clementine, with Jessica Chastain and Edgar Ramirez, that should be well worth looking out for. Read our full review.

The Unbeatables, Amazon, from £3.49

We don't usually include two films from the same director in this list, but this animation from Juan José Campanella is such a family-friendly treat it was impossible to resist. Given an all-star cast in the English language dub, including Rupert Grint, Anthony Head and Rob Brydon, this is slyly comic fun in the spirit of Merrie Melodies, that sees a man go on an adventure with the players from a table football game. Packed with sight gags, along with plenty of clean shots on everything from sponsorship to players' attitudes, Campanella's fancy footwork is a treat to watch. Read our full review.

La Ciénaga, Amazon Prime

Lucrecia Martel most recently made international waves with her period drama Zama, but this tale of bourgeois summer angst is where she began her feature career, netting prizes across the world. Sweat drips from the pores of this film about a family (headed by Graciela Borges and Martin Adejmian as Mecha and Gregorio), who end up rubbing shoulders with the clan of Mecha's poorer cousin Tali (Mercedes Moran). The plot is minimal but Martel lets you slowly stew with the families, as prejudice and disatisfaction swims about below the surface as the adults get drunk and the teens please themselves. Read our full review.

Carancho, BFI Player

Pablo Trapero is another of the big-hitters of Argentine cinema. His film The Clan, based on the story of the kidnapping Pucci family, is perhaps the best known of his films to international audiences, after it won the Silver Lion in Venice, but this earlier movie about an ambulance chasing lawyer (Ricardo Darín, yes, him again) is well worth seeking out. Trapero began with a neo-realist style but while this film still has a gritty realistic feel, it incorporates more noticeable thriller elements as the lawyer finds himself falling for a paramedic (Maria Gusman) and beginning to feel the prick of his conscience. Gusman and Darín anchor the film as it pelts along at full throttle, exposing the rot of the system that runs from top to bottom along the way. Read our full review.

Jauja, Amazon, from £3.49

Jennie Kermode writes: We all come to Jauja as strangers. This is the Patagonian land of the dead, in mythology and, in 1882, in reality, as most of its indigenous inhabitants have been slaughtered to make way for European settlers. The engineer Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen) is there to survey the land on the latter's behalf, but he's ill at ease in this strange land; the 4:3 aspect ratio seems to speak to his sense that there's always something watching him, just out of sight. His daughter, Ingebjorg (Viilbjørk Malling Agger) sees things differently, and when she runs away, his desperate pursuit of her will lead him to very strange places indeed. Lisandro Alonso's poetic yet daring film explores notions of what it means to belong to a place and to move through time and space. Interiors, costumes and the early cinematography speak to the Danish art of the period, but once we get out amongst the wild grasses of the pampas, that safety net is gone and anything could happen.

Rojo, Amazon, GooglePlay, Curzon and other platforms, from £1.99

Regular readers of this column, will note this previously had a mention in our spotlight on Golden Shell winners but Benjamin Naishtat's thriller is well worth another plug.  Set against the advent of the Argentine dictatorship that would lead to more than 30,000 disappearances, it considers the way many may be willing to turn a blind eye to events when it suits them. Small town lawyer Claudio (Dario Grandinetti) has a restaurant confrontation with a stranger (Diego Cremonesi) that escalates with drastic consequences and soon finds himself under investigation from Chilean detective (Alfredo Castro, in a much more comedic and sympathetic role than usual).  Read our interview with Naishtat and our full review.

Our short film selection this week is the multi award-winning animation Ian, by Abel Goldfarb, which tells the story of a little boy with cerebral palsy who longs to play with other children.

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