Papirosen: Over 200 hours of home movies turned into gripping film

by Atzin Ortiz, contributing blogger

In an era obsessed with self overexposure, film directors have also ventured into that direction. Gastón Solnicki’s intimate and cathartic second documentary “Papirosen” is a fascinating family mosaic which poignantly constructs the history of 4 generations of his own blood. Winner of the Best Argentinean Feature in this year’s BAFICI, and having played in numerous festivals around the world (Locarno, Rotterdam, Vancouver), the film succeeds by creating a complex portrait, showing all its upsides, downsides, contradiction, bonds of family dynamics, in which one can easily relate to.

The film opens in a masterful sequence during the winter holidays where Solnicki’s part as a pure observer is established. He’ll always remain in this position, regardless of a few times being called offscreen. This has been his motto for a decade. When his sister’s son, was born, he decided to turn on his camera and film everything. The way his eyes can capture and just sneak in every single event, whether it’s the mundane or the extremely uncomfortable, is mesmerizing. That the film shapes, in over 200 hours of material (with the help of gifted editor Andrea Kleinman), a universal family portrait, is remarkable.

Without having any clear or strong narrative line, but having his father (a character born to be in this film) as the main axis, “Papirosen” will go back and forth in time and family members: from the unforgettable grandmother, who is a survivor of the Holocaust, to his sister Yanina, who’s marriage falls apart and thinks her error was not marrying someone like her father. It will switch from the director’s own filmed materiat to anonymous home-made VHS, and super 8 footage from his unknown grandfather (an important absense that will gain weight with the relationship between Gaston’s father and nephew). But every image, each fragment will ring true. This movie will definetly stick with you.

The film opened early September in MALBA. It can be seen there on Friday’s @ 8pm and in the Centro Cultural San Martin, Sundays @ 7.30pm

Word of advice in MALBA: try to get early tickets. I tried twice to go and they were sold out.

Papirosen (Argentina/2011) / Direction and Camera: Gastón Solnicki / Edited by: Andrea Kleinman / Sound Designer: Jason Candler / Running time: 74 minutes.

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