The selection of films at the 14th BAFICI film festival—a total of 449 including both feature-length and shorts—is overwhelming. Wendy Gosselin has been attending the festival to report on her favourite (and least favourite) finds. Remember, tickets can be purchased online at www.bafici.gov.ar or in person at any of the participating theatres.
La Chica del Sur/The Girl from the South
Director: José Luis García
In July of 1989, chance led Argentine documentary filmmaker José Luis García to North Korea, where he would participate in the last international conference for communist youth, a trip he refers to as “revolutionary tourism”. García learns that a South Korean student, Im Su-kyong, has come to the conference to demand the reunification of North and South Korea. She promises to cross back into South Korea on foot at the border in Pyongyang, where soldiers on either side stand in a perpetual face-off. Twenty years later, García embarks upon a trip to find Su-kyong. What has happened to the girl who was once hailed as “The Flower of Reunification”? This approach at a documentary intertwines Garcia’s own story with Su-kyong’s while the different relationships of those who are making the film evolve: the translator, a South Korean-Argentine, develops an unexpected relationship with the protagonist. This film explores how the ideals of youth evolve over time and how, ultimately, some cultural barriers are impossible to transcend. This is a definite must-see at this year’s BAFICI.
Director: Armin Linke
This film delves into the Alps in a journey that takes viewers to over a dozen locations in the countries that border the European mountain range and then as far as Dubai. It is a stunning presentation that combines the noisy machinery of local factories with dynamite explosions along the mountains, museums with scale models, and women immersed in strange spa treatments with local rural inhabitants. A rock cutter is shot from behind as he breaks down stones at his post. A helicopter descends onto a rooftop in winter, creating an unexpected snow storm over the building below. Linke presents us with a sort of inadvertent land art that brings to mind the Swiss artist Roman Signer. It is a film of moments that seem entirely unaware of themselves, merging the real and the artificial in ways that makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. If you can handle a movie without a plot—just a series of moments, minute reflections on the fringes of the mountain—don’t miss this film.
Director: Kongdej Jaturanrasmee
Films from the Philippines are trending of late and Jaturanrasmee’s film is a great example of this cutting-edge cinema. P-047 is about two young men who enter houses not so much in the interest of robbing them as to explore the lives of their inhabitants. The locksmith Lek lies down on the bed of a young woman and inhales her scent; Kong toys with the lover of one of the victims of their heists via Facebook. Sometimes they take little things from the houses, a bit of money, tokens, souvenirs. The film explores appropriation in many shifting forms. When a young woman asks Lek his name and he tells her, she calls him a liar. But that’s his name… or is it? It is as if no one were exactly him or herself and could change according to the object or location. The film has sudden plot shifts that harken to Sleeping Sickness, a film that was screened at last year’s BAFICI. Far from interrupting, however, these shifts pull you further into this wondrous film. Another to watch in this year’s line-up.
Director: Raúl Ruiz
This short film by the prolific Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz, who passed away last year, is included in a series of three shorts that includes ‘Viento Sur’ (directed by Paz Encina) and ‘Sin título (Carta para Serra)’ by Lisandro Alonso. Both are worth watching to get a glimpse at Ruiz in action: a man moves from boarding house to boarding house in a deserted Santiago de Chile; he carries on his back a moving suitcase that contains something unexpected. We hear no sound from what is on-screen; the film has a “narrator” who mainly limits himself to grunting, sighing and clapping his hands from time to time. This creates a strange disjunction, as if the real sound of the film had been eliminated and we have been left with the noises of an amused elderly viewer. Although Ruiz’s films tend to leave you wondering, their poetic visuals always make them worthwhile.
Naturally, with so many films to choose from, there are undoubtedly ones that can be left unseen. In my opinion, film festivals often include films that would work as video installations but not in theatres. This is the case of two works included on this year’s programme, ‘Small Roads’ (directed by James Benning) and ‘Couér Bleu’ (Blue Hearts, directed by Gérard Courant). Both of these would work in an art gallery, where the viewer has the chance to sip some wine, watch the film for a few minutes, wander through the gallery and then maybe watch for a few minutes more. Sitting through them in their entirety is almost impossible; these are films that merit another venue.
In any case, there are many unforeseen pleasures in BAFICI. It’s merely a question of getting a ticket to a screening and taking a chance on being captivated. As the festival advances, the Argentina Independent will be offering more recommendations.