by Cecilia Barone, contributing blogger
The cross-border documentary, El silencio del puente, (The silence of the Bridge) directed by Eduardo Schellemberg grippingly denounces the violence and poverty that forces people to cross from Paraguay to Argentina on the San Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz Bridge that links the two nations. The product of four years of investigation, Director Schellemberg (Viejo Pedro; 1993 and Segundos Afueras; 1998) follows the story of three people who live on the Paraguayan side, and unfolds grippingly as a murder mystery being investigated by a detective. Filled with death, gun shots and police operations, it gives a chilling view of the tripple frontier.
This hopeless environment encourages people to dive into drug trafficing and counterfeiting, and while law enforcement pursues these crimes, neither the Argentine police nor Paraguayan police can effectively control the bridge. The three main characters are linked by their personal stories regarding to the bridge, but Aurora Lucena´s story is the central point that serves as an entrance to this microcosmic world, as her quest is to know the truth about her husband´s death, who disappears in mysterious consequences and has never been solved.
While the film unfolds as a police mystery, it always points out that it is the underlying corruption, poverty and injustice that motivates the characters to make the decisions they do. One of the characters, Ricardo de la Cruz Rodriguez, is a lawyer who defends smugglers with anti-capitalist arguments, writes a report on the crime of poverty, enforcing the director´s thesis that the real crime is not having the opportunities to create a better life honestly.
Beside the main characters, the daily work performed by Eduardo Petta, a former prosecutor, appointed director of the traffic police stands out in the film. The camera work of Schellemberg follows his daily journey in trying to combat smuggling, but often faces a state bureaucracy that hurts more than helps.
El silencio del puente abounds in sources, and the one negative of the film is that it is hard to keep the characters straight, as there are so many.
This strong narrative documentary is a complex and painful human journey, where each protagonist experiences interior changes. Because El silencio del Puente is based on an extensive work of observation and structured as police multiple investigations, there is a real identification process that occurs for the viewer. The movie deserves a wide, eager to live the human experience of life of people driven to make difficult decisions in a bustling, seedy environment and those that decide to search for justice, even though they know that they propably won´t get it. A dull documentary with talking heads, it is not.
Official Selection of the 2012 BAFICI.