Argentina has produced arguably the best cinema industry in Latin America, leading several Hollywood productions to be filmed in the country. Movies such as Evita, Highlander II, Focus, and the Reverant were all filmed on location in Argentina. While it is interesting to see the way Hollywood portrays Argentina, it is much more meaningful to see the country’s own representation through cinema. The following is a list of the best films to get a glimpse into the Argentine film industry.
10) El Lado Oscuro del Corazón – The Dark Side of the Heart is a romantic dramedy that deals with the age-old storyline of a man who falls in love with a prostitute. Darrío Grandinetti plays the leading role of a poet who has to sell his works to advertising agencies to make a living meanwhile gallivanting about with his artsy friends in search of the perfect woman. This search takes him across the river to a brothel in Montevideo where he finds what he is looking for, leading to further difficulties. The film cuts back and forth between reality and surrealism as the protagonist waxes poetic and has several encounters with death, played by a sultry Nacha Guevara.
9) Esperando la Carroza – Many Argentines will contest that Esperando la Carroza (waiting for the hearse) should be played for all foreigners in customs upon entering the country. The 1985 cult film shows off Argentina’s bizarre, dark, and neurotic brand of humor, the plot focuses on a family debate about who will be in charge their 80-year-old mother, Mama Cora, played by Antonio Gasalla in full drag! It gives great cultural insight into middle class Porteño life, each role takes on stereotypical prototypes of Argentine society. It may be true that the movie can only really be appreciated by Argentines, or at least, those with good command of Spanish and understanding of Porteño culture, as characters speak a million miles per hour and talk over one another, making the film nearly impossible to subtitle accurately.
8) La Historia Oficial – Argentina’s first oscar winner covers one of the darkest subjects of Argentine history, the dictatorship that killed more than 30,000 of its own people. The film was released in 1985, just two years following the end of the country’s bloodiest regime, a time when many within the country were not yet ready to confront its recent, horrific history. The plot follows the story of a mother who chooses to discover the truth of her adopted daughter. One of the most sinister methods employed by the military government, was to imprison pregnant women, force them to give birth in captivity and give away the child before killing the biological mother.
7) El Clan – A film by Pablo Trapero exposes the real life story of the Puccio family. The seemingly respectable Argentine family headed by the patriarch Arquemedes played by Guillermo Francella, the homemaking mother, a talented rugby star son and four other well-behaved children. However the family is hiding an evil secret, the family business consists of kidnapping, torturing and killing their victims for ransom money. The soundtrack of the film quite ironically uses lighter music during dramatic and violent scenes. The film received high marks at the Sundance film festival.
6) Valentín – Argentine child star, Rodrigo Noya, plays the titular role of Valentín, an 8-year-old boy raised by his grandmother in Buenos Aires in the 1960’s. Valentín dreams of being an astronaut, however aside from his childish ambition he is wise beyond his years, and must confront the problems of his family. He hasn’t seen his mother since he was three and his womanizing father is mostly absent, except when he arrives one day with a new girlfriend, whom Valentín hopes will take on the role of his mother. Valentín is heart-warming, smart, funny and at times difficult film about an innocent child facing complicated realities at a young age.
5) Un Cuento Chino – Argentina’s most well-known actor, Ricardo Darín, takes a break from his usual dramatic roles in the quirky comedy Un Cuento Chino. Roberto, played by Darín, is a lonely, neurotic owner of a hardware store who one day sees a Chinese man, Jun, kicked out of a taxi in front of the airport. Roberto attempts to help Jun only to discover that he does not speak any Spanish and that he has a tattoo on his arm with an address. Roberto then takes Jun in to his home and tries to help him on his search and discover his intriguing and bizarre past.
4) Relatos Salvajes – Written and directed by Damián Szifrón, this film, a series of six short stories was an oscar hopeful that received production from the Spanish film legend Pedro Almovodár. The series of shorts centers around the theme of its characters being pushed into extreme situations and their dramatic and often hilarious reactions.
3) Medianeras – The clever 2011 romantic comedy is a tale of two strangers, seemingly fit for one another living in adjacent buildings who go about their lives oblivious of one another in a city of millions. The two main characters, Martín and Mariana, play honest roles as imperfect characters who are made for one another if only they could find a way to overcome the existential barriers the city continually places between them. The title “medianeras” refers to an architectural element of large apartment buildings, the huge blank walls often used for billboards, which many city dwellers illegally chisel through to create windows. Medianeras smartly uses the city of Buenos Aires itself as a character, cast in a supporting role to the unfolding storyline.
2) Nueve Reinas – Starring Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls, the storyline centers around two con men who partner up for the scam of a lifetime the counterfeit sale of the nueve reinas, a set of priceless rare stamps. The film is set in Buenos Aires in the 1990’s at the height of political corruption, where society mirrors government and seemingly everyone is a crook. One memorable scene filmed in front of Retiro train station portrays several pick pockets, scam artists and thieves at work as Marcos, Darín’s character, gives the play-by-play to his partner Juan as it all goes down.
1) El Secreto de sus Ojos – The second Argentine film to win the academy award for best foreign film was directed by Juan José Campanella and has an all-star cast of Ricardo Darín, Diego Francella, Pablo Rago, and Soledad Villamil. The dramatic plot involves a retired federal agent Benjamín Esposito, played by Darín, who decides to retrace the steps of the unclosed case from 25 years earlier, the brutal rape and murder of a young woman. In the process of seeking closure, Esposito breaches several profound topics, including the country’s military past, the murder of his best friend, and an unrequited love. The movie was filmed in several emblematic Buenos Aires locations, including Tribunales (the supreme court), Retiro train station, the Stadium of Racing Football Club, and Bar Dorrego in San Telmo.
Diarios de Motocicleta– The coming of age story of the infamous Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna before his revolutionary days. The film is a heart touching travelogue of friendship and compassion as young Guevara and his friend Alberto set out together on motorcycle to discover South America. While not technically an Argentine film, Argentines Rodrigo de la Serna and Mía Maestro comprise part of the cast completed by the famed Mexican actor Gael García Bernal as the protagonist and is directed by Brazilian, Walter Salles. The film won an oscar for the best original score composed by Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler.