BAFICI Documentaries: Profiles of Artists that are anything but Biopics

Typical BAFICI crowd talking about film.

Typical BAFICI crowd talking about film.

by Marfa Nekrasova, contributing blogger

Porteños consider it their duty to see at least one movie at BAFICI, and the blue program booklets of the festival can be seen in many bags and pockets on the “subte” and “colectivos”. The festival is becoming a symbol. Still it remains full of heart, with the long discussions after the movies between directors and their audience. As usual Argentina presents lots of documentaries that compete with fictions on equal terms.

The circle of “Official Selection/Out of Competition” shows us fresh movies that are have unusual perspectives. I will review three documentaries made by young Argentinian directors. These documentaries are interested in heroes, artists and focus on people you think you know, but show you another side. Typical biopics these are not.

El Gran Simulador” (The Great Pretender), which will open in theatres on May 2nd , focuses on the legendary card illusionist Rene Lavand, who, after losing his hand, continued to entertain audiences. The movie takes us to the house of the maestro, trying to reveal his secrets, but instead opening up a different image of the card king, that has a lot to do with his lost hand. In the Q&A the director Nestor Frenkel said that he had no script at all, that it appeared later after watching all the material filmed. The movie turns out to be quite a spontaneous story, which seems to be the only way to show such a character, one that improvises all the time, living without any scripts, joking from time to time and being philosophical in that interval.

El Olimpo Vacío” (The Empty Olympus) also tells the story of a famous old man: the critic, writer and philosopher Juan Jose Sebreli. But instead of his personal story the movie develops through the stories of four Argentinian heroes, that were described in his essay “Comediantes y Mártires” (Comedians and martyrs) – Carlos Gardel, Eva Peron, Che Guevara and Diego Maradona. Sebreli breaks the stereotypes about these personalities with incredible objectivity and the directors Pablo Racioppi and Carolina Azzi juxtapose his words with the words of his admirers and critics, adding excellently chosen chronicles and photos.

With the portraits of the four characters they create a picture of several time periods of Argentina, of its people and of their way of thinking. The idea of making the movie appeared after Pablo Racioppi met his hero in a café and decided to go and say hello. First, he and his colleague were interested in Sebreli just as an author, but as time passed, he charmed them with his personality. This can be felt from the opening scenes.

Máquina de Sueños” (Dream Machine), investigates the creative process of three contemporary Mexican artists – Carlos Amorales, Pedro Reyes and Minerva Cuevas. Even though the nature of their art is different, their works intersect each other. The directors Andres di Tella and Dario Schvarzstein confessed that they made it for the order of TV, but their aim was to go out of the borders of the usual TV documentary. And they succeeded. It became a proper piece of art, which questions what art is, if art can be useful, and if it can be inspired by an anti-human deed. Both directors recommended everyone to experience being co-directors and, as Dario said, to have the opportunity to doubt together.

The force of art unites these documentaries from Argentina. The force of art is on full display in the BAFICI, until the 21st of April.

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