By Mónica Delgado
This festival edition included a group of Latin American film that somehow didn’t reflect any kind of tendency on the region’s cinema, but instead affirmed some sensibilities and tastes, both of the programmers and the producers, that keep betting for a formulaic cinema, not a freer, more creative one. Maybe La Familia (The Family), a small Venezuelan film makes a little difference, since its only ambition is to find the most effective resources to elaborate on the relationship between a father and a son, strangers in a socially and economically unstable Caracas. If somehow what Gustavo Rondón Córdoba tells could be inscribed in the category of “social cinema” (a cinema of poor people in situations that tries to make them look even more poor), the filmmaker achieves to direct a film about family intimacy in situation of crisis, that sets it apart of the other Latin films projected in Cannes.
Santiago Mitre’s La Cordillera (The Mountain Range) is a big super production that gathers an international cast and spectacular locations in the Andes, as a physic metaphor of elevation and secrecy of the tainted world of Latin-American politics: diverse, folkloric and anodyne. The summit is a regional meeting between the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil, together to decide an oil treaty, but where a lobby to admit certain American business happens, between bribes and accounts in Gran Caimán.
La Cordillera, presented in Un Certain Regard, sins in its “political treaty for dummies” treatment, inside the codes of thriller and black comedy, showing the typical “behind the scenes” of political agendas as extraordinary events. Mitre emphasizes the ambivalence of the political leaders, prone to vendettas, something which is not a defect in itself, since it’s made with genuine interest, with a fast-paced narration and with subplots and references to some of the most scandalous cases of international corruption, such as the current trials of Lava Jato or Odebrecht, that have shaken and changed the imaginary of politics in Latin America. This Meta textuality (Paulina Garcia playing Michele Bachelet, or Ricardo Darin as the typical outsider of flimsy democracies) enriches the film, despite its HBO-tele series appearance.
On other side, Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato’s La Novia del Desierto (The desert bride) is the kind of film that answers to a festival taste, a taste also for feminine characters that reflect a bet for the already known. Paulina Garcia incarnates a mature woman (again) whose life suddenly changes (as a social and cultural reverse look of the Chilean Gloria) but this time as a domestic employee that becomes trapped in a province and finds love and freedom. The issue with this Argentinian-Chilean film, also presented in Un Certain Regard, is in the over evident gadgets of the script and the poor performance of Garcia as the eternal house mate without shoes.
Marcela Said’s Los Perros (The Dogs) confirms another Cannes’ typical taste. The Critic’s week has shown sympathy before for a kind of story inside a conservative universe, a thing reflected in choices like Santiago Mitre’s Paulina (or La Patota), films that try to model its worlds under transparent ideological premises. There’s something of this on Los Perros, a film that narrates the story of a military man on trial on crimes against humanity, a man that falls in love with his riding student. The film’s point of view is centered in the gaze of this student, a millionaire woman who doesn’t seem to be bothered by the obscure past of this character aligned with a dictatorial regime. The film gloats itself in strengthening some higher class imaginaries towards responsibility and guilt, protected by the right of oblivion and a clean sleight. Ethically unthinkable and visually mediocre, Los Perros plays to the rhythm of singer Camilo Sesto. The metaphor that gives the film it’s titled is never completely achieved.
The only Latin American comedy seen in the whole competition was the Colombian film La Defensa del Dragon (Dragon’s Defense), directed by Natalia Santa, a feature film that is heavily influenced by Aki Kaurismaki’s films, playing with the coldness of its characters and the dialogues which are assumed as acts of conciseness and synthesis.
La Defensa del Dragón is the portrait of an old chess player that makes a life teaching mathematics to school kids in the afternoon, and who constantly visits two old Friends, which spend the time with him without any major occurrences. This mise in scene, based in reiterations, in defined locations that slowly build a microcosm towards the chess move that gives the movie its title, endow the film with a peculiar personality. However, there seem to be some rushed moments in the script, or an ending that disarticulates everything that was already exposed through its hour and a half of duration.
Despite its errors in the construction of characters and its licenses on narration, this white comedy searches for an identity among the regional panorama, a small step for Natalia Santa that opens some possibility of attention in the future.