The Day I Was Not Born


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Day I Was Not Born
"Benefits from ravishing cinematography and elegant production design that helps to bring out the character of Buenos Aires itself."

Maria is a swimmer, strong and resilient. She's 31 but her father still gets nervous when she takes trips outside Germany by herself. It's his age, he says. One day when she's flying to Santiago for a tournament, her plane is delayed in Buenos Aires. She takes a seat in the airport lounge. Behind her, a mother is singing a nursery rhyme to her child. Maris finds herself unaccountably reduced to tears. She recognises the song - but it's in Spanish.

It's the beginning of a journey of discovery - about herself, about her past, and about the nature of the world. The basic outline of what's happened emerges early on, so no time is wasted on mysteries that will be obvious to the viewer. The deeper mystery, the human mystery, fills out the rest.

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Between 1976 and 1983, around 30,000 Argentinians were 'disappeared' by the ruling military regime, vanishing without trace. It is believed that many of them were thrown into the Atlantic. Their children were taken in by relatives or adopted; many were given to couples loyal to the regime. Since those children began to grow up, there have been numerous cases of young people in Argentina discovering their parentage is not what they believed. Complicating the usual difficulties faced by adopted children is the cultural horror at what happened, which often makes it taboo even to discuss it.

This is a big topic for a single film and, sensibly, The Day I Was Not Born avoids taking on too much, concentrating on telling a relatively simple story well. It benefits from ravishing cinematography and elegant production design that helps to bring out the character of Buenos Aires itself. Jessica Schwarz is understated but effective in the central role and the script wisely sidesteps the potential for histrionics, whilst Michael Gwisdek brings a tormented dignity to the man who has called himself her father. There's also a hint of romance with wary local police officer Alejandro (Rafael Ferro), rounding a out a film that mingles politics with sensitive drama to great effect.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2012
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The Day I Was Not Born packshot
A young German woman briefly visits Buenos Aires and finds herself recognising things, the beginning of a painful process of discovery.

Director: Florian Cossen

Writer: Florian Cossen, Elena von Saucken

Starring: Jessica Schwartz, Michael Gwisdek, Rafael Ferro

Year: 2010

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: Germany


Glasgow 2012

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