7 Boxes

7 Boxes


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This Paraguayan thriller, featuring almost as many twists and turns as the market in which it is set, is a fast-moving, audience-pleaser with decent helpings of tension and black humour. It is the sort of film that, in the fullness of time, could well be subjected to an English language remake. I recommend you don't wait for that.

The capital city of Asunción boasts Market No.4, the largest in Paraguay, sprawling and packed with traders. That's no problem for Victor (Celso Franco), though. He knows the alleys as well as the barrow he pushes around them, helping people to cart goods. He'd make a decent living, too, if it wasn't for the fact he spends half of his time daydreaming about becoming a film star - or at the very least owning a mobile phone with a video camera to capture himself and his best pal Liz (Lali Gonzalez) on. Sounds like a simple dream, but things are about to get complicated courtesy of a cast of characters including Victor's sister (Nelly Davalos), Leti (Katia Garcia), her heavily pregnant colleague at the Chinese restaurant where she works and a dodgy butcher with something (or 7 things, to be more exact) to hide.

It's not long before Victor - on the promise of the other half of a hundred dollar bill he has been given - is carting the seven wooden boxes of the title around the market. The only problem is, older barrow pusher (Victor Sosa), who has more pressing reasons than the acquisition of a phone to make him desperate for cash, thinks the mysterious contents of the boxes could be the answer to his prayers. If that wasn't enough, Victor is soon going to be contending with a thief, a police hunt and a lot more besides.

Directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori - with terrific camerawork from Richard Careaga - take us deep into the market, setting up several gripping chase sequences through its streets and making the cart itself into a central character, frequently using PoV shots from under its wheel. Just as the boxes jostle for space in Victor's barrow, so the competing plot strands snag up against one another and begin to coalesce.

The story is convoluted but the directors keep a tight and logical grip so that even if one or two leaps of faith are required, you are prepared to go with them for the ride. What is in those boxes is, perhaps surprisingly, no mere maguffin, and the revelation midway through the runtime is very well handled. Although this is a genre film, the debut directing team (writing in collaboration with Tito Chamorro) have something to say about the nature of the black and grey economies, where money - just like Victor's dreams of fame - can become more important than humanity.

As the screw begins to turn and Victor's exit roads start to dwindle, were left breathlessly hoping that he won't be next to join the increasing large pile of dead bodies. With winning central performances from debutantes Franco and Gonzalez, smart scripting and an only just a bit too long running time, 7 Boxes is a treat.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2013
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A teenager finds himself with the custody of seven boxes... but everyone wants the contents.
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Director: Juan Carlos Maneglia, Tana Schembori

Writer: Patrick Altamirano, René Ayala, Juan Carlos Maneglia

Starring: Arturo Arellano, Beto Ayala, Roberto Cardozo, Atil Closs, Nelly Dávalos, Ever Enciso, Fernando Fleitas, Celso Franco, Katia García, Nico García, Lali González, Alicia Guerra, Luis Gutiérrez, Stephen Jang, Johnny Kim

Year: 2012

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Paraguay

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