Reviewed by: Trinity

In the years following the military coup in Argentina in 1976, hundreds of people - men, women, artists, teachers, lawyers, musician, children, even babies - were captured, tortured and sometimes disappeared without trace. Kamchatka represents the quiet resistance of these rebels, the hope that if you can hole up for long enough, your time will come. Kamchatka also represents a country on a boardgame that a young boy plays with his father, a little piece of stability in a turbulent world for the family.

A lawyer, his wife and their two boys are forced to leave Buenos Aires and hide out in a house in the suburbs. They take on new identities and attempt to lead a normal life, always wary of the "call for action" that might come at any time. The eldest son reinvents himself as Harry, after Harry Houdini, the famous escapologist, whose feats are recorded in a book he finds.

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As events unfold - his mother loses her job, his dad is forced into stranger and stranger meeting places, Harry changes school - the signs of strain become ever more telling, whilst Harry tries to understand the mind of Houdini, as a way of escaping his current situation.

A young man, Lucas, is sheltered at the house and the two eventually strike up a wary friendship before Lucas disappears, leaving Harry alone again. A visit to their grandparents reveals the tension between Harry's father and grandfather - will the family survive long enough to return to their former lives?

Marcelo Pineyro's film gives a broad view of the troubles in Argentina by focusing on a single family. In doing so, we get a sense of the personal torment caused by the uncertainty and fear of discovery, which is gradually revealed by the parents to their son. Emotions swing from high to low and we are taken with them. This is mostly due to the excellent acting from all five main characters, including outstanding performances from the two boys.

Pineyro uses careful signposting and symbolism as part of a greater statement of this turbulent time in Argentina's history. The feeling of claustrophobia and fear is sparingly realised through a series of small details - cigarettes, bedwetting, dancing - but there are always moments of humour to break the gloom and offer hope.

A beautiful study of a family and a country fighting to stay together.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2003
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Kamchatka packshot
A family tries to evade capture following the military coup in Argentina.

Director: Marcelo Piñeyro

Writer: Marcelo Figueras, Marcelo PiƱeyro

Starring: Cecilia Roth, Ricardo Darin, Hector Alteiro, Tomás Fonzi, Matias del Pozo, Fernanda Mistral, Mónica Scapparone, Milton De La Canal, Matías Del Pozo, Evelyn Domínguez

Year: 2002

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Argentina and Spain


EIFF 2003

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