December 17, 2017
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Debuts rank high at Bafici Intl Competition

Juan Martín Hsu’s La Salada won the Industry Award at the 24 Films in Progress event of the San Sebastián Film Festival last year.
A look at the main selection reveals many first features and just as many topics

This year, Bafici’s International Competition, with screenings kicking off today, includes 18 features, most of them marking the debut of filmmakers from different parts of the world. Argentina has three productions vying for the main trophy: La Salada, by Juan Martín Hsu, Algunas chicas, by Santiago Palavecino; and Mauro, by Hernán Rosselli.

The International Competition jury is comprised of Argentine critic Eduardo "Quintín" Antin, French filmmaker Serge Bozon, Israeli director Nadav Lapid, US filmmaker and Argentine director Celina Murga.

Based on Cesare Pavese’s Women on Their Own, Santiago Palavecino’s third feature Some girls (Algunas chicas, Argentina, 2013) spreads out patches or blinks of genres (thriller, horror, melodrama) over the palette of moods he uses to portray these lone women, and the result is a mysterious and narcotic film that revolves around the sparks from these combinations. But it mostly calls upon us, dragging us through blows of beauty and magnetism and forcing us to be the question marks that close the questions this formidable film poses.

From the 2011 Buenos Aires Talent Campus comes Juan Martín Hsu, whose debut feature La Salada (Argentina, 2014) focuses on three different stories unfolding at the La Salada health resort: Huang, a young Taiwanese who is confined to live in a reduced space that only expands with the DVDs he copies; Bruno, who comes from Bolivia with his uncle Kim and starts wandering through jobs and places to sleep; and Yun Jin, a Korean girl subjected to her family’s decisions. With these stories, and the fair as its center, La Salada draws a complex and attractive Argentina, showing the relentless and violent forces the famous “race melting pot” is made of.

The third Argentine entry in Bafici’s International Competition is Hernán Rosselli’s Mauro (Argentina, 2014), the filmmaker’s first feature film. With the story of Mauro the hustler — as in someone who walks the streets and buys stuff to hustle counterfeit money — Rosselli dares to fill Argentine film realism with variations, a believable intimacy, dialogue with no poses or artifices, music, and diverse formal resources that integrate in a narrative that flows confidently. Mauro’s deceptive simplicity and immediacy is actually the result of a mise en scène and a style of editing that are conscious and thoughtful, and know, just like the title’s character, the value of discretion.

From Brazil comes another debut feature — Castaña, by Davi Pretto, who focuses on the story of João Carlos Castanha, film and stage actor and drag queen. Devout son who lives with his mother in a modest apartment from even more modest buildings. Transvestite performer of a brief, excellent show done just before the male strippers come out. A film about a real character as presented in this film-portrait that is a fiction based on and glued to real life.

Fifi Howls From Happiness (US/France, 2013), by Mitra Farahani, follows the mystery surrounds the figure of Bahman Mohasses: since 1979, no one knows anything about him. At least until now, when filmmaker (and painter) Mitra Farahani decides to look for him. That investigation leads her to a hotel room in Rome, where she will find many things to see and hear Mohasses’ sculptures and paintings become known. His poetry and radical points of view are heard with a voice that is still firm and violent. Even the creative (and destructive) process through which he developed many of his works intersects with the story of a life that looks less like a biography and more like a “portrait.”

M. Blash’s The Wait (US, 2013) shows us Emma (Chlöe Sevigny) receiving a call immediately after her mother’s death. The mysterious voice over the phone tells her that the woman will come back from the dead, that it’s only a matter of waiting. And that’s how it’s done: he mother is still dead in her bed, while Emma tries to convince her sister Angela (Jena Malone) that that is what they must do: wait. The Wait, the disturbing and, at the same time, stunning sophomore film by M. Blash deals with a subject that is constant in everyone’s life, the reaction at the face of absence, but finds a new way of approaching loss through certain clues with which it grazes genre film.

Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central (France/Austria, 2013) tells the story of Gary (Tahar Rahin, the star of A Prophet) who finds work in a nuclear plant (the “central” of the title). His supervisor is Gilles (Olivier Gourmet, a regular in the Dardenne brothers’ films). And among his workmates is Toni (Denis Ménochet, from Inglourious Basterds), whose wife is Karole (Léa Seydoux, from Blue Is the Warmest Colour). Grand Central is the story of a passion that emerges between Gary and Karole and it’s also a story of trust and companion ship, in a teamwork environment.

Iranian (France/Switzerland, 2014), by Mehran Tamadon, follows an Iranian director living in France travels to his home country because he finally succeeds in bringing together four supporters of the government in order to openly discuss their visions on the world, the logic of majority and minority, the banning, the press, etc.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s third film A Castle in Italy (Un Château en Italie, France, 2013) introduces us to Louise Rossi Levy, an actress retired from the public eye and member of an Italian bloodline of the most rancid lineage. The last few years haven’t been very favorable: her beloved brother Ludovic suffers from a terminal disease and the tax collector has cornered her family, who see themselves forced to sell the castle they possess in Italy and a Brueghel painting.

On a more particular note, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s 20,000 Days on Earth (UK, 2014) brings us closer to Nick Cave in a triple capacity for the first time: as screenwriter, actor and musician. British visual artists Forsyth and Pollard make their feature debut with 20,000 Days on Earth and manage to offer a new, radiant personal dimension to the often commonplace idea of the “established rock star portrait.”

Herald staff with online media

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