A sketch of the happenings at BAFICI, which runs through Sunday, 24th April.
BAFIC turns 18 this year and from the quantity of films, events and moviegoers congregating at different venues across the city, 2016 is expected to be another record year for the festival. Hopping from theatre to theatre, I’ve seen a smattering of the festival’s incredible, if at times overwhelming, selection.
In the International Competition, where there is rarely a chance of a film so slow or strange that you are at risk of falling asleep or bolting from the theatre, I very much enjoyed ‘A Magical Substance Flows into Me’. The young Palestinian filmmaker Jumana Manna initiates a musical journey into the violence that crisscrosses Israel and Palestine, a violence that suddenly dissipates when musicians—from a young Israeli woman singing in her kitchen to a Bedouin strumming a rebab in the desert—begin to play.
Everyone was buzzing about another film in the International Competition, ‘La larga noche de Francisco Sanctis’, since it was announced that Francisco Márquez and Andrea Testa’s film will be competing next month at Cannes. The film, based on a novel by Humberto Constantini, follows a man who must decide whether or not to take action to save two people from a kidnapping during the last military dictatorship. Although the film impeccably replicates the tension and unease of those shadowy times, I felt like there wasn’t quite enough of a story for a feature and ‘La larga noche’ would have been stronger as a short film.
Another film in the International Competition, ‘Paradise! Paradise!’ by Kurdwin Ayub, follows a Kurdish man who has lived most of his life in Austria but cannot let go of his dream to move back to his homeland. I was frankly more compelled by the glimpse at life in Iraq near the border held back against ISIS than I was by the main character, the filmmaker’s father. I also caught the moving ‘The Revolution Won’t Be Televised’ by Rama Thiaw, who follows two rap artist-activists as they protest the entire political system of Senegal—a sort of African “que se vayan todos” movement.
Moving on to the Argentine Competition, ‘El teorema de Santiago’ is a film-about-a-film: it traces legendary filmmaker Hugo Santiago in his return to Buenos Aires to shoot ‘El cielo del centauro’, the wondrous work that opened last year’s BAFICI. Though ‘El teorema’ offers an enthralling look into the mind of the master, the film might not have much to offer those unfamiliar with Santiago’s work. ‘Hierba’, a film by the prolific director Raúl Perrone, is a visual feast. Actors superimposed on landscapes by artists like Monet and Renoir tremble and gesticulate, voiceless, in a strange and modern-day silent film. None of the eighteen acts has any apparent connection with the one that precedes or follows, and although Perrone disregarded this in the Q and A after the film (“My films are about creating an atmosphere… I don’t do ‘Rambo’”) I couldn’t help but wonder if he maybe could have created that atmosphere but also added a plot to keep me from checking my watch every few minutes.
Besides the competitions, there is a long list of films worth seeing at the festival. I caught ‘One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & the Lost American Film’, a new documentary by Bill Teck that pays homage to one of the most important guests at this year’s festival, Bogdanoich, whose career in film has spanned nearly four decades and includes classic American films like ‘The Last Picture Show’ (which, by the way, is also on the festival’s lineup, along with several other movies by the director). I was also pleasantly surprised by ‘El eslabón podrido’ by Valentín Javier Diment, a twisted tale of a forgotten pueblo deep in the interior that brought to mind Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke.
For the full list of films showing every day (the website has an English language option!), check the website. The festival runs until Sunday so if you have a few free hours, head over to the Recoleta Mall or any one of the 27 venues across the city to catch one of the many films this festival has to offer!
Lead image from ‘Paradise!Paradise!’ directed by Kurdwin Ayub