Tag Archive | "buenos aires"

Hundreds Protest Closure of Buenos Aires Cultural Spaces

Hundreds joined yesterday's protest, supported by numerous musicians and artists (photo courtesy of La Cultura no se Clausura)

Hundreds joined yesterday’s protest, supported by numerous musicians and artists (photo courtesy of La Cultura no se Clausura)

Under the slogan ‘Culture is not for Closure‘, dozens of artists, organisations, and cultural spaces protested in front of the Buenos Aires city government’s Ministry of Culture on Av. de Mayo yesterday evening. The demonstrators accompanied their manifestation with live music, street theatre, art, and dancing.

The protest came in response to an increasing number of closures of cultural spaces by the city government, with 20 being closed down in the past three weeks alone.

Protestors have labelled the closures “political persecution against those who propose alternative culture” and yesterday lobbied legislators to move forward with the approval of a law to recognise independent cultural centres and spaces, which are not recognised under current city legislation.

As a result of the legal vacuum, many of the cultural spaces operate with licences as social clubs, cafes/bars, or theatres, which can lead to fines and closures of the space or its activities.

A member of a cooperative who last year ran ‘El Café de los Patriotas’, which was closed down by the authorities, explained to Telám that the cultural space, located in Paternal, used to “organise film projections, political debates, and a variety of free workshops, and the aim was not a commercial one, but one of generated popular culture.”

The new law, which is being propelled by the Movement for Cultural Spaces (MECA) and has already received more than 40,000 signatures supporting the bill, proposes: Recognition of the existence of Art Residencies, Social and Neighbourhood Clubs, Cultural Centres, and Cultural Clubs; Adaptation of the legal requirements to the necessities of these independent spaces; Speeding up the paperwork necessary for new cultural spaces to be run legally; Giving non-profit organisations the option of processing the paperwork for free, among other things.

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Buenos Aires Teachers’ Strike Enters Second Day

A school in La Plata warns parents about the strike (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/lz)

A school in La Plata warns parents about the strike (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/lz)

Teachers in Buenos Aires province entered the second day of a 48-hour strike that began with the new school term on Monday. According to estimates by the Federation of Buenos Aires Educators, 98% of teachers participated in the strike yesterday.

Teachers are demanding improvements in wages and school infrastructure, as they consider that the agreements reached at the beginning of the year between the unions and the government are not being fulfilled. On this point, Roberto Baradel, Secretary General of teachers’ union Suteba, said: “The wage increase we agreed on was carried out in two stages and what we ask is that the monitoring clause be applied and the commission we agreed on during wage negotiations be formed. We consider that the first stage of the increase was eroded over various [monthly] wages.”

Baradel also pointed out that: “Among the points in the agreement that put an end to the 17-day strike in March, there were investments in infrastructure, improvements in school cafeterias, and the regularisation of our health insurance, and none of this has been resolved.”

Buenos Aires governor Daniel Scioli agreed to meet with union representatives tomorrow at the Labour Ministry, and in return the teachers confirmed the strike will end today. However, they warned they could go on strike again if an agreement is not reached.

The government has agreed to discussing issues such as infrastructure investments in tomorrow’s meeting, however Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez clarified that “wage issues will not be discussed, because that’s already been sorted for the 2014 term.” It has also been suggested that teachers that joined the strike could have the missed days discounted from their monthly wage – a discount of between $360 and $800.

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Shops Fined for Charging Customers to Top Up SUBE Cards

SUBE card (photo: Wikipedia)

SUBE card (photo: Wikipedia)

Over 120 shops and kiosks in Buenos Aires face sanctions for illegally charging customers extra when topping up SUBE cards or mobile phone credit.

The report came after The Office of Consumer Protection carried out inspections in various neighbourhoods of the capital in May.

According to city laws, customers have the right to access these services from licensed establishments with paying any additional surcharge or being obliged to purchase other goods at the shop. Every establishment must also display a sign that informs customers of these rights.

According to city government Cabinet Chief Horacio Rodríguez Larreta: “locals can report shops that abusing the law at a local government office or call 147 for support.”

Further inspections are set to be carried out in other parts of the city, and offending establishment could face fines of between $500 and $500,000.



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Workers’ Conflict Continues at Gestamp Auto Parts Factory

Gestamp workers speak outside the factory earlier today (photo: Gestamp union press)

Gestamp workers speak outside the factory earlier today (photo: Gestamp union press)

A conflict between workers and the Gestamp auto parts company continued without a resolution today, despite a mandatory conciliation issued by the Buenos Aires provincial government.

The dispute began last week after nine workers that were among 67 laid off by the company occupied the plant in Escobar, north of Buenos Aires, blocking operations. On Saturday, the provincial Labour Ministry ordered a conciliation for 15 days to end the protests and reincorporate the workers while negotiations can continue to reach a permanent solution.

The agreement, signed by Gestamp and the workers, was set to come into force today, but workers say the company is still not letting them enter the factory for reasons of “health and safety”. However, workers accused the company of failing to comply with the order, and maintaining an illegal “lock out”.

“The company told us that there would be no production today because they are supposedly sorting out the machinery,” said one of the nine protesters, Roberto Amador. “We don’t believe them – they had all weekend to do that. The company is manoeuvring to not comply with the mandatory conciliation.”

The workers’ protest has been supported by various social organisations and leftist political parties, though also drew criticism from other quarters.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said this morning that “political actions or illegal measures prevent an industry from functioning.” The conflict has disrupted production at major auto plants – including Volkswagen, Ford and Peugeot-Citroën – that have not received parts from Gestamp.

On Saturday, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner urged the provincial government to act to bring an end to the dispute, adding that workers do not defend their jobs by “occupying or damaging factories.”

There was also criticism from the Union of Mechanics and Auto Sector Workers (SMATA), which has declared itself in a state of “alert and mobilisation”. SMATA leader Ricardo Pignanelli said the protest was backed by political parties Partido Obrero (PO) and Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS), and threatened the jobs of hundreds of other workers.

Amador rejected these claims today, saying Pignanelli was a “serial liar”. Speaking about the occupation, Amador added that: “We showed the company, SMATA, and the provincial and national governments that the workers’ struggle will triumph over all of those who want to bear the burden of the crisis.”


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Rap in Buenos Aires: The Golden Age of the Masters of Ceremony

This article was originally published in Hecho en Buenos Aires.

In every corner of Buenos Aires and its metropolitan area, rap culture thrives. Manuel Cullen heard the flood of rhymes they produced, saw the biggest rappers in the area, and learned that, when push comes to shove, it’s not not about cumbia or rock, but rap. They’re self-managed, they record, and boy, do they make culture.

Conección Real

Conección Real (photo courtesy of Hecho en Bs As)

Hip hop is everywhere. On the city’s trains, plazas, and streets. It bleeds through the walls that surround the rail tracks and explodes on the cars of the six subte lines. The culture that emerged at the Bronx in the ’70s, today is more visible than ever in Buenos Aires. Freestyling competitions sponsored by energy drinks go side by side with self-managed encounters carried out in parks that have nothing to envy the former in terms of prestige and popularity.

When it comes to expressing themselves, thousands of kids from the Greater Buenos Aires don’t choose rock or cumbia. They choose rap. Rhymes enter our televisions in the shape of ads or soft news. But the phenomenon is, above all, a source of great records that are worth listening to (and downloaded) carefully.

Living the Dream

Just in 2013 and the beginning of 2014, over 30 albums of the genre were edited in Buenos Aires. Most artists record them, mix them, and share them on social networks. The most widely used are Facebook, YouTube, and MediaFire. A handful of them were also released on physical formats. One of them is ‘Viviendo el Sueño’ (‘Living the Dream’) by the duo Kraneando Actividad, where Sudaca’s elaborated beats complement the sharp lyrics and plays on words of MC Antuzapien.

The rapper, born in San Martín de los Andes, Neuquén province, and resident of Buenos Aires, explains: “I think what we enjoyed most about this album was the production, we did everything we wanted: we invited great MCs, musicians, DJs. It was mixed by a great friend of ours at the DES studios.” Antu refers to the production company that Kraneando put together to work on their projects and those of other artists. A constant in the local scene is the proliferation of recording studios where rappers can rehearse and record their rhymes. Many of them are located in a teenager’s bedroom, a laundry room, or another useful corner.

Núcleo aka TintaSucia

Núcleo aka TintaSucia (photo courtesy of Hecho en Bs As)

The Interap

Sebastián Muñoz, Chilean sociologist who crossed the Andes to study the local rap scene and film the documentary ‘Buenos Aires Rap‘ -which opened at Bafici last month- thinks that cheaper access to technology (such as computers to record and edit music, and HD cameras) and an increase in the use of the internet (which makes distribution and access to music and audiovisual information easier, and allows for national and international contact between rappers) both contributed to the growth of the rap scene.

And he adds: “Then, there’s an internal ‘maturing’ of hip hop, musically and socially. Little by little, a more extended recognition criteria is starting to take hold, centred more around quality than belonging to a certain crew. These elements allow for the development of projects that are more autonomous and sustainable, less dependent on external agents (decisions by record labels, managers, TV shows).” In fact, labels, when they exist, are just that: a label, a rubber stamp created by the artists, not an external structure for production, distribution, and circulation.

Antuzapien explains it: “Self-managent has to do with the artist. In our case, it was a choice, we had opportunities and offers to edit our album through a label and we decided to take on the responsibility and the cost ourselves, we didn’t want anyone else to take credit for doing nothing, because that’s what they offer: nothing.”

Natural Connection

In order to distribute physical copies, they used the contacts they’d made through concerts around the country, and downloads are free through sudacaezeiza.wix.com.

Kris Alaniz

Kris Alaniz (photo courtesy of Hecho en Bs As)

One of the latest albums to see the light on social networks, on 5th May to be precise, was the excellent ‘Conexión Natural’ (‘Natural Connection’) by Kris Alaniz. On it, the rapper, musician, and beatmaker combines her love for rap with other genres such as bossa nova and soul. The album was recorded at Buena Madera, a studio in Monte Grande, Buenos Aires province, while she still lived in Córdoba, and it includes guest appearances by Buenos Aires rappers such as Viajeros Krew, Tortu. Cno, and Under, among others.

“I think the name defines the album, because it was made with friends, because it has an environmental theme, and it tries to open people’s minds with its commitment to earth, to nature. The gestation period was tough for me, because I was going through a process of finding myself and the people around me, but in the end, that entails opening your mind and seeing the positive side in bad things, and, above all, it was my introduction to Buenos Aires, it’s important to me,” she explains. The album can be found in her Facebook.

On the subject of recording studios that have popped over the last few years, it’s impossible not to mention ‘El Triángulo’ (‘The Triangle’). In that one key location in a poor neighbourhood in Berazategui, 12 albums were recorded in 2013. One of the most downloaded was ’3.0′ by Núcleo aka TintaSucia, the brains behind the studio and leader of La Conección Real.

Talking about the content of the collaboration with DJ Destroy Arms and young beatmaker from Fuerte Apache, DJ Pela (available here), the rapper says: “It’s hard to define, it’s quite varied, I’m talking about the themes and the content; a large part of it is quite purist, it’s about keeping the essence of hip hop, but it’s also about fighting, not giving up, and not surrendering to problems and difficulties and moving on. I talk to the people, from my little spot I would like to be the voice of the people, to represent the common man who fights for what he loves. I don’t like to get trapped within a certain culture, so to speak, and with age comes experience and more directions to go with my music.”

It’s Time

For Núcleo, rap is going through a crucial stage. “It’s a golden age, just before it becomes commercial, where it’s still raw, it’s out on the streets, no one quite makes a living out of this and that gives it a unique flavour,” he says.

Kris Alaniz adds: “The scene is about to explode, the people who are just beginning have an amazing level, which we didn’t have when we began. I love walking through the streets of Buenos Aires, hear music blaring out of the stereos of cars and realise it’s my friends singing, it gives me goose bumps. You can breathe hip hop here, in every neighbourhood I visit this culture is alive; we still need to change a lot of things, improve some others, but the path is there, we just have to walk it, like we’ve been doing for years, without giving up.”

Antu is a bit more sceptic: “The rap scene is weird; at times, it seems great, like everything is happening, but on the other hand, you want to crawl underground. I think we’re going through a very nice growth period and we’re laying the foundation for those coming behind us, but there’s still a lot of work to do.” He then adds, hopeful: “Today, I walk down the street and everything is hip hop everywhere. Around the corner from my work there is a primary school, out of ten kids, three are freestyling or doing beatbox. There’s a lot of work to do still, but clearly Argentina is putting its hand up.”


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Traffic Chaos after Piqueteros Block 9 de Julio

Picketers are demanding more jobs and better wages (Photo: Victoria Egurza/Télam/dsl)

Picketers are demanding more jobs and better wages (Photo: Victoria Egurza/Télam/dsl)

Downtown Buenos Aires is experiencing traffic chaos after social groups and unions set up camp on the 16-lane 9 de Julio, demanding that the City Government raise salaries and add more jobs.

The protesters, who belong to Frente de Organizaciones en Lucha (FOL) and left-wing political parties, started obstructing traffic at the intersection with Av. de Mayo  just before midday, and a couple of hours later set up tents. In a communiqué, the group said: “Whilst inflation continues to eat up our low incomes, the governments of Macri [Mauricio Macri, Buenos Aires mayor] and Cristina [Fernández de Kircher] are more concerned with promoting repressive laws such as the ‘anti-picketing’ one instead addressing the needs of people.”
A little after 1pm, the federal police issued its own communiqué to respond to anger at police inaction to quell the protests and help the traffic to circulate, saying “facing the lack of authority from the Buenos Aires City Government and the Metropolitan Police in the road block on Avenida de Mayo and 9 de Julio, which falls under their jurisdiction, the federal police has been forced to intervene to guarantee the free transit and circulation of people.”
Some federal police officers are now on the scene, awaiting the arrival of their metropolitan counterparts.
Security Secretary, Sergio Berni, chipped in, saying that the matter was one that should be dealt with by the city government, adding that it seemed like “Macri enjoys complicating the lives of porteños“.
The protesters are threatening to remain there until tomorrow.

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Union Action Causes Further Disruptions on Sarmiento Line

Minister Randazzo with new Sarmiento line trains (photo: Paula Ribas/Télam)

Minister Randazzo with new Sarmiento line trains (photo: Paula Ribas/Télam)

There are delays of up to 45 minutes on the busy Sarmiento line for the second day running as members of the train drivers’ union (UF) continue a work-to-rule protest.

The workers are demanding a compensation payment for the transfer of the train operating company into state hands, as well as a 40% hike in wages. “They must have something against us because they have paid workers on other [train] lines, and with us they don’t say anything,” said union leader Rubén Sobrero yesterday, adding later that “we feel discriminated against”. Sobrero said the measure would continue all week if the government did not act.

Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo has condemned the protest as “crazy” and an “extortion”, saying he would leave the ministry before paying an indemnity. According to the government, there is no valid claim for compensation because the working conditions have not changed since the train operator was nationalised in October 2013.

“We will not stand for this type of permanent extortion,” added Randazzo, who claimed that over 127,000 working hours have been lost so far in 2014 due to strikes. The government said this morning that commuters could use the 160 buses covering the Sarmiento line route to the western suburbs of Greater Buenos Aires.

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Editorial: On Lynchings, The Media, and Missed Opportunities

It began on 26th March. “18-year-old thief lynched by locals in Rosario dies”, read the headline in La Nación. The ‘thief’ was David Moreira, who succumbed to severe head injuries four days after being beaten by a mob of up to 50 people who accused him of snatching a handbag from a young mother in the street.

Lorena Torres, David Moreira's mother holds a photo of her murdered son (photo: Carlos Carrión / Indymedia)

Lorena Torres, David Moreira’s mother holds a photo of her murdered son (photo: Carlos Carrión / Indymedia)

In the days that followed, reports started coming in of similar incidents around the country. Then, on 29th March, a Twitter user gave a vivid account of another brutal mob attack on a suspected mugger in Palermo, catapulting the issue to the front pages and opening a national debate.

Analysing the causes and psychology of collective violence is beyond the scope of this article. But before the news cycle moves on, it’s worth reflecting on some of the things we have seen and heard over the last week, and adding a bit of context and perspective to the hyperbole.

Modern-day lynchings are not a new phenomenon, nor unique to Argentina

Lynchings are already an established phenomenon in other parts of Latin America, especially in Guatemala, which reported 488 cases (and 47 deaths) in 2013 alone. However, these typically take place in rural areas and display more ritualistic tendencies, such as dragging the victim to a symbolic public place and burning or torturing them. There are more lines of comparison between here and Brazil, where a similar national debate is underway after a 15-year-old boy was beaten, stripped, mutilated, and chained to a lamppost with a bike lock by a mob who accused him of stealing in a middle-class neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.

There is no official data on lynchings in Argentina, but one university study found 24 cases reported by the media between 1997 and 2008, while an online search reveals sporadic recent examples, including an almost identical case in November 2012 on the same corner where Moreira was murdered.

Experts signal that there are also likely to be other cases that are not reported at all. Sociologist Javier Auyero, co-author of ‘La violencia en los márgenes‘ (Violence in the margins) spoke on radio about how violent revenge attacks are not uncommon in the shantytowns and poor urban neighbourhoods, yet the press pay little attention. When it comes to crime and security, says Auyero, the media focuses overwhelmingly on that which affects the middle and upper classes, even though it is the poor that suffer from it most on a daily basis.

There is a disconnect between crime rates and the feeling of insecurity in Argentina

When Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri recently expressed relief that his daughter spent 2013 living in San Francisco, he probably had not checked that the murder rate was higher there last year than in Buenos Aires. Yet Macri is not alone: according to Latinobarometro, 35% of Argentines consider crime the biggest problem in the country, more than any other Latin American state except Venezuela and Uruguay, despite data suggesting it is relatively safe.

National crime statistics have not been published since 2009 – a major problem in itself – but in the province of Buenos Aires, the most populous and most affected by crime, the murder rate in 2013 was an estimated 9.7 (per 100,000 people). This is among the lowest in the region, according to UN data, with only Chile and Uruguay enjoying significantly lower rates. Even localised spikes in violence – the homicide rate in Rosario reached an alarming 22 last year – remain far below the worst affected urban areas of Brazil, Colombia, and most of Central America. The same UN report does show that Argentina has the highest rate of robberies in the region, though it has not changed significantly since 2005.

Rosario has seen a surge in violent crime related to drugs gangs (photo: José Granata/Télam/ef)

Rosario has seen a surge in violent crime related to drugs gangs (photo: José Granata/Télam/ef)

Argentine sociologist Gabriel Kessler, author of the book ‘El sentimiento de inseguridad’ (‘The feeling of insecurity’), says this disconnect comes from a mix of relatively high and risings rates of victimisation (the number of households that have been a victim of crime, mainly minor offences), and the media exposure of the most violent crimes and murders. This generates fear about the potential to be a future victim, centred especially on the arbitrary nature of street crime.

None of this is to deny the existence of violent crime or diminish the emotional impact it has on those who suffer its consequences. But a legal system exists precisely to strip emotion from the judicial process – everyone has a right to demand a better judicial system, but not to circumvent it. And if there is to be a considered debate on the problem, it should be based on objective reality and not a feeling of persecution.

Condemnation comes in shades of grey

One thing that has resonated is the public response to this outbreak of lynching attacks, today more visible than ever thanks to social networks. Opinions in newspaper comments and social networks range from outright rejection of violence to unashamed celebration at the death of a ‘criminal’. Of course, virtual anonymity tends to bring out extremist views, and there has also been a strong online campaign rejecting vigilantism under the slogan ‘No cuenten conmigo‘ (‘Don’t count on me’). Yet a softer version of this ‘uno menos‘ (one fewer) mentality seems to have at least a foothold in the social conscience: two separate surveys published late last week found that around 30% of respondents support the use of violence against suspected criminals.

Media pundits and public figures have been almost universal in condemning the lynchings, though this is often nuanced with understanding for those that took part in them. Meanwhile, subtle judgements are cast through the select use of language: the person being beaten to death remains the ‘criminal’ while the mob is made up of ‘locals’ who are taking ‘justice’ into their own hands. The word ‘murder’ is largely missing from the coverage of the Moreira case, even though at least two Supreme Court judges and several prosecutors have made it clear that this is the only way it can be treated by the law.

Efforts to empathise are also one-sided. Talk of social frustration, suffering, and injustice is directed at the ‘normal’ people who resort to brutality out of ‘desperation’. The background story and social context of the person they are beating is largely irrelevant – he is defined solely by his alleged criminal act, and disregarded as just another anonymous thug from the slums.

Lurking behind it all is an undercurrent of racism. Even though in Spanish, the translation ‘linchamiento‘ does not have the same connotations as the English original, there is a clear profile of the dark-skinned, cap-wearing criminal that is reinforced by the media. It is this type of stigmatisation that led to a group of taxi drivers in Rosario to chase down, shoot at, and beat up a young man on a motorbike last week because he looked like someone who had just robbed their office. If we are talking about the feeling of insecurity, what about those of a certain complexion who now have to fear being wrongly accused by an angry mob?

Talk about an ‘absent state’ is misleading

Politicians have also weighed in on the debate, with opposition leaders Sergio Massa (Frente Renovador) and Macri (PRO) quick to point the finger at an ‘absent state’, as though Alto Palermo were South Sudan. This media-friendly soundbite is designed to appeal to those who demand a quick solution to the problem of crime via more police, more prisons, and harsher sentences.

This call to get ‘tough on crime’ has been heard before. But the state has long contributed – through corrupt or abusive security forces – to the violence that exists in the marginalised areas most affected by crime. In 1999, ex-governor of Buenos Aires province, Carlos Ruckauf, boasted about how his police would “use bullets” on criminals, effectively legitimising a type of lynching in uniform. News this weekend of current governor Daniel Scioli’s knee-jerk declaration of a “security emergency”, and the reincorporation of 15,000 retired police officers, is not going to be comforting to all.

A protester outside a villa dresses up as the grim reaper in a police uniform (photo: Kate Stanworth)

A protester outside a villa dresses up as the grim reaper in a police uniform (photo: Kate Stanworth)

The demands for sterner punishments are also selective: last week, there was an outcry over the swift release of the adolescent who was allegedly caught stealing and ‘lynched’ in Palermo, but no one seemed too concerned in September after the acquittal of five men who took part in the beating to death of 15-year-old Lucas Navarro in La Matanza in 2010 after he attempted to rob one of them with a toy gun. Meanwhile, little is being said about the fact that no one has even been arrested for the murder of Moreira.

The real state deficit in these “factories of violence”, as Auyero calls the slums and impoverished suburban enclaves, is the failure to provide public education, social services, and work opportunities. Those who were cut adrift in the rampant neoliberal reforms of the ’90s and have not felt the benefits of the so-called ‘decade won’ under Kichnerism know more about injustice and helplessness than most. As the villa-based cooperative magazine La Garganta Poderosa surmised last week: if inequality does not justify anyone going out to steal, why do some claim that insecurity justifies some people going out to kill?

An opportunity is being missed

Amid tragic circumstances, there is an opportunity to discuss seriously the complex and sensitive issue of crime, justice, and security. However, this discussion needs to be balanced and without prejudices: if we are going to try and understand social violence, we need to examine all of it. If we only ask ourselves whether it is acceptable or not to lynch a certain type of criminal (no one is talking about lynching people who cause road accidents or businessmen who steal), it will inevitably reinforce stereotypes and social divisions.

A full debate cannot exist without more voices from the margins, like those of La Garganta Poderosa or César Gonzalez, the former teenage drug addict and mugger who is now a publisher and filmmaker, and perhaps the most powerful argument against those who support lynching. “The demand for more security is shared by all,” said Gonzalez on one radio show last week. “But it’s only a certain social sector that ends up getting beaten.”


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Buenos Aires Gears Up for BAFICI 2014

This Wednesday marks the start of this year’s BAFICI, ten straight days of screenings of films from all around the world. Whether you are looking for sexploitation, serious documentaries, classic pictures of yesteryear, or top picks from the indie film circuit, this year’s BAFICI has it all, with a selection of more than 400 features and shorts.

(Photo courtesy of BAFICI Festival)

(Photo courtesy of BAFICI Festival)

The festival kicks off with ‘The Congress’, directed by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman. For the second consecutive year, the opening film — previously relegated to an exclusive event for BAFICI dignitaries — will be shown at the Parque Centenario amphitheatre in a free outdoor event on Wednesday 2nd April (8pm). The decision on this more inclusive beginning to the festival belongs to Marcelo Panozzo, who is back for his second year as BAFICI’s artistic director.

If your Spanish leaves a lot to be desired, BAFICI is the perfect place to become acquainted with Argentine cinema, since all of the Spanish language films are subtitled in English. There are more local titles than ever this year, with three Argentine films making it into the International Competition (‘Algunas Chicas’ by Santiago Palavecino, ‘La Salada’ by Juan Martín Hsu and ‘Mauro’ by Hernán Rosselli). There is also an exciting lineup in the Argentine Competition, with plenty of anticipation around films like ‘Historia del Miedo’ (Benjamín Naishtat), ‘Ciencias Naturales’ (Matías Lucches), and ‘El Escarabajo de Oro’ (Alejo Moguillansky). Oh, and don’t miss a chance to see some classics from the golden age of Argentine filmmaking in the retrospective of comedic director Carlos Schlieper.

Besides the Argentine and International Competition, there’s the Avant-Garde and Genre section, which always promises some wild things you never would have imagined on the big screen. This year’s offering includes ‘G/R/E/A/S/E’ by Antoni Pinent, a deconstruction/collage/appropriation of the seventies musical film with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes is back to premier his short film ‘Redemption’, after his feature film ‘Taboo’ was one of the most commented of the 2012 edition of the festival. Another strange film in this section is a half-documentary, half-fictional account of people coming and going to a temple in Nepal, Manakamana, which is also the name of this film by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez.

Israel is the guest country at this year’s edition, with an a wide variety of films from the country as well as a retrospective on Uri Zohar, a prolific director who made nearly a dozen films critical of the history of the Zionist nation, including ‘The True Story of Palestine’ (1962) and ‘Every Bastard is a King’ (1968). Other directors treated to a retrospective this year include Rita Azevedo Gomes (Portugal), Jean-Stéphane Bron (Switzerland), Robert Fenz (United States), Cao Guimarães (Brazil), and B-movie master Frank Henenlotter (United States).

'La Salada' by Juan Martín Hsu is one of three Argentine films in the International Competition (photo courtesy of BAFICI)

‘La Salada’ by Juan Martín Hsu is one of three Argentine films in the International Competition (photo courtesy of BAFICI)

In a year of two major international sporting events (the Winter Olympics and the World Cup), BAFICI has added a Sportivo section with a well-selected list of films about sports. It includes pictures like the Hungarian war drama ‘Two Half Times in Hell’ (Zontán Fábri) where Nazi soldiers take on Hungarian servicemen on the soccer field, and a classic Argentine film about soccer talents, ‘El Crack’ (José Martínez Suárez). ‘Head Games’ (Steve James), another film in this section, documents a topic that has become particularly pressing in terms of American football, but also other sports as well: the long term effects of repeated head injuries. James’s earlier sports documentary, ‘Hoop Dreams’, is also included in the Sportivo section.

The number of film premiers at this year’s festival is also noteworthy, with directors like Júlio Bressane, Raya Martin, Kelly Reichardt, Alan Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Ti West, and Takashi Miike all showing their new films at the 16th BAFICI. For the youngest BAFICI goers (or the youngest at heart), there is a pre-debut of two much-awaited sequels, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ (James Bobin) and ‘Rio 2′ (Carlos Saldanha) and the usual list of animated films from across the globe, not to mention a special section, Retro UPA, dedicated to classic cartoon films by the United Productions of America.

All in all, no matter what tickles your moviegoer’s fancy, there is bound to be a film or two for you at this year’s BAFICI. As always, tickets for the hottest films often sell out, so buy in advance online on the official BAFICI website, or in person starting 3rd April at any of the BAFICI locations: Village Recoleta, Village Caballito, Centro Cultural San Martín, Malba Cine, Planetario, Fundación Proa and Arte Multiplex Belgrano (the free outdoor BAFICI screenings will take place at the amphitheatre at Parque Centenario, but tickets are not on sale there). Finally, if you have a valid student ID, you can get into the free press showings (provided the theatre doesn’t fill up with journalists, which it rarely does); pick up a schedule at the BAFICI press room at the Centro Cultural Recoleta.

Check back with The Indy for film reviews during the festival and happy viewing!

Posted in Film, OpinionComments (0)

Street Child World Cup: Becoming Somebody in Rio

Messi, Ronaldo and co. won’t be arriving in Brazil for another two months, but in Rio de Janeiro this weekend, a different type of global football tournament kicks off. Over the next ten days, the Street Child World Cup (SCWC) will bring together 230 teenagers from 19 countries that have lived or worked on the streets in a festival that combines football, art, and campaigning to deliver a simple yet empowering social message: I am somebody.

The first SCWC in Durban in 2010 (photo courtesy of SCWC)

The first SCWC in Durban in 2010 (photo courtesy of SCWC)

The event will take place in a large complex in the Vargem Pequena neighbourhood of Rio, with football pitches, swimming pools, conference centres and accommodation for all of the participants and their supervisors. “We’ll have children from Pakistan with children from Argentina,” says Joe Hewitt, director of communications for SCWC. “There will be language barriers, but what we found last time was that the football and the art takes over, and these kids build a bond that is really unique and remarkable.”

The first SCWC took place with eight teams in Durban, South Africa, in 2010, in the months before the FIFA World Cup, with the aim of challenging the negative perception and treatment of street children across the world. The idea came from the decade-long campaign by local non-profit Umthombo Street Children to end the illegal round up of street children by local authorities, an activity that had intensified in the run up of the FIFA event. “We helped them win the campaign,” says Hewitt. “The municipality said they would no longer do the round ups and would instead work with the [Umthombo] project. It started like that and reached the point where the Durban municipality will be sponsoring the South African team to come to Brazil, so it’s a complete shift in their thinking.”

In Brazil, the SCWC is supporting the local ‘Criancia não é de rua‘ (No child should be on the streets) campaign, which seeks a national policy response to provide short-term support and a long-term alternative for children on the streets. Aside from trips to Rio’s famous attractions like the Cristo Redentor statue and the Maracana stadium, the SCWC participants will also spend two days in Vidigal, a favela on a hill rising above Ipanema beach, integrating with the local community and getting to know the kind of environment the members of the Brazilian boys’ and girls’ teams have come from.

Hewitt says encouraging a connection between children that, despite their vastly different backgrounds and daily realities, often share experiences of neglect and abuse, is one of the key goals of the event. “For example, the team from Burundi can hear about what the government is doing in the UK, and the safety net they have in the US – they can never dream of that, but it is something they can start to build into their advocacy.”

Team Argentina

According to a national survey by Unicef and the Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family (Sennaf) published in June 2012, there are 14,675 children without parental care in Argentina, with half of these concentrated in Buenos Aires and the surrounding metropolitan area.

It is here, some 40km west of the centre of Buenos Aires, that the Argentine SCWC team is training at the Fundación La Casita, a local NGO that has been working with street kids for 38 years in a suburb of Moreno. After some free play – a chance to showboat some skills – some of the boys start running laps of the pitch while others watch from outside the fenced area.

Team Argentina in training (photo: Marc Rogers)

Team Argentina in training (photo: Marc Rogers)

“We are working a lot on positioning and tactics,” says coach Leandro Amoedo, speaking briefly between attack versus defence drills. “They used to just run all over the pitch before, but now we’ve got some order”

La Casita currently houses around 50 adolescent boys – the numbers fluctuate given the home’s open door policy – and nine of them will represent the country for the first time in the SCWC in Rio. They are, understandably, excited. “I’m looking forward to seeing Brazil and meeting other people from all over the world,” says Javier, who prefers to play enganche – the Argentine name for a number 10 or playmaker. “I’ve been training every day.”

“It sounds crazy, but there are kids in the team that have never even been to downtown Buenos Aires. Imagine what it means to them to leave the country, take an aeroplane, to go to Brazil,” says Isidro Villanueva, administrator of the home. “It offers a chance to meet others and find out how they are working and what difficulties they face, because this is an international problem… It also gives a chance for people to know the home [La Casita], the work we do and why we do it.”

Villanueva entered La Casita 26 years ago as a street child like any other, and after finishing his studies and leaving, he decided to come back and work with the next generations of children coming through the same doors that he did.

He has witnessed first hand how things have changed for youngsters out on the streets over the last three decades. “There wasn’t as much drug usage before. In my day, those with drug problems were 20 or so, nowadays children of ten or 11 come to the home having tried practically everything,” he explains. In Villanueva’s experience, the socioeconomic changes of the country over that period have also had an impact: “Values have been lost. Getting an education was something normal then, but now it is something exceptional. We had a work culture because we came from generations that worked – now younger children come from three generations of parents that haven’t had work, and that changes values, conduct, everything.”

The staff and volunteers at La Casita try to restore these values through classes and workshops in all kinds of practical crafts. “The idea is that they have to learn something – it doesn’t matter what, but they have to take something away with them,” says Villanueva. “One of the fundamental goals of the home is that the children start to acquire habits – in study, hygiene, cleaning. This event [SCWC] creates more habits, to take part in a sport, to dedicate a certain time each week to training… this contributes a lot to the lives of the children.”

Team Argentina in training (photo: Marc Rogers)

Javier (right) takes on a teammate in training. (photo: Marc Rogers)

The nine-person squad includes two brothers, Martín and Emmanuel, who along with a third sibling, live in La Casita. “Since I came to the home and went to school I stopped taking drugs,” said 15-year old Emmanuel in a recent interview for the foundation’s own newsletter. “I used to take a lot of drugs, of all kinds, but now I’ve stopped that because I think it’s bad for me… [The SCWC] is going to change our lives. We’re going to see another country, make friends – we’ve worked hard all year to go to Brazil.”

Rio Rights

The children from La Casita will have a chance to share their experiences with those from all over the world in what is arguably the most important aspect of the SCWC, a participatory international conference in which the children themselves develop a universal call to action for governments over children’s rights.

In 2010, it was through this conference that the so-called ‘Durban Declaration’ was prepared, and later delivered to the governments of participating countries and the UN Committee on Human Rights. The statement carried one key message from the children: ‘listen to us’. Hewitt says the ‘Rio Rights Declaration’ this year is likely to be more focused on specific requests to governments. “It will demand that governments guarantee street children certain minimum standards.”

In addition to sharing personal experiences via an accessible football-themed methodology called Team for Life, the conference will cover broad areas like addiction, for the children or their family members, violence against adolescents, and gender issues, as girls tend to be more invisible on the streets, and are often abused by street boys. However, Hewitt stresses that the children themselves will determine the exact content of the declaration. “There will be a focal point, but we don’t know what that is yet because it will come out of what the children say. We won’t presume what they say, we’ll wait to find out.”

This year’s conference is given extra significance by the killing of one of the children in the Brazilian boys’ team last month. Rodrigo Kelton was shot on a visit to his family home in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza – it was his 14th birthday. “The rates of child and teen mortality are incredibly high in Brazil,” says Hewitt. The entire tournament takes place against the backdrop of increased social tension in Rio, with the army recently sent in to control a rise in violence in the city’s favelas. It is in this type of climate that children on the street are particularly vulnerable. “One of the UPP [Brazil's Pacifying Police Unit] was killed recently, and they went in a killed six kids in the favelas,” says Hewitt, adding that the SCWC organisers hope increased media attention on these issues can prompt authorities to act, as they did in Durban. “The media can help change this idea that there is a society and then these ‘animals’, which is how street kids are seen.”

Back in Moreno, Villanueva and the other directors at La Casita are hoping that the SCWC will create more awareness of its work within Argentina, and in that way, help reduce its heavy dependency on limited state subsidies going forward. “For many years we worked with the idea that doing a good job day to day was sufficient, but things have changed in recent years and we also need to promote,” says Villanueva. “I’m worried about the future of the home, because today the economic situation is difficult, and if we can’t generate resources from within the home and become self-sustainable, this institution will have an end date.”

Posted in Human Rights, Urban LifeComments (0)

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In the week that Estela de Carlotto, president of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, found her grandson, ending a 36-year search, we revisit Vicky Gashe's 2010 article on the human rights organisation.

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