By contributing blogger Benjamín Harguindey
The 2014 Cannes Film Festival (May 14 – May 25) offered a handsome spotlight to the 4 Argentinian movies selected for the official competition: Palm d’Or nominee Wild Tales (directed by Damián Szifron), Pablo Fendrik’s period Western The Ardor, FIPRESCI Prize winner Jauja (directed by Lisandro Alonso and starring Viggo Mortensen) and Diego Lerman’s intense drama Refugee.
Szifron, widely popular in Argentina as the helmsman of the hit cult TV shows The Simulators and Brothers & Detectives, is making a comeback to filmmaking after a nine-year absence since his buddy cop comedy – also a commercial hit – On Probation (Tiempo de valientes, 2005). The movie, featuring an ensemble cast composed of pretty much every A-list thespian in the Argentine industry (Ricardo Darín, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Darío Grandinetti and Erica Rivas, to name a few) and with a co-production credit for Pedro Almodóvar, is shaping to be the biggest release this year in the country, and was met with a lengthy standing ovation upon screening at Cannes.
Next is The Ardor, an international co-production filmed and set in the jungles of Misiones, and starring Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga. Described by the director as “a new approach to the Western genre”, the movie is an example of the thriving genre filmmaking that has been slowly but surely taking up a large part of Argentina’s yearly film production.
Lisandro Alonso is one of Argentina’s most priced “underground” auteurs and often time crasher of the festival scene (all of his movies have been screened at Cannes), having garnered international acclaim with The Freedom (La libertad, 2001) and The Dead (Los muertos, 2004). His latest film, Jauja, is set during the controversial XIXth century Desert Campaign and stars Viggo Mortensen, in his second Argentinian movie since the 2012 thriller Everybody Has a Plan.
The Argentinian selection was completed with Refugee, a road movie with gender violence as its theme, directed by Diego Lerman and starring Julieta Díaz. Two other Argentinian movies, both of the horror kind, were screened off competition as well: vampire movie Darkness by Day (by Martín de Salvo, 2013) and horror flick Still Life (by Gabriel Grieco, 2014).
Axel Kuschevatzky, head of Telefonica Studio’s international production has hazarded that “What we’re seeing increasingly in Argentina are commercial genre movies made from an auteur viewpoint, rather like in the ‘70s New Hollywood Cinema”. INCAA president Luciana Cardosa commented last week in Cannes regarding the Argentine film bonanza, stating that average budget of an Argentine feature has risen 60% to 3.4 million pesos in the past 7 years. And the ball keeps rolling.