News from the Locarno Festival

El Movimiento - Dark Argentina

“El Movimiento” - Benjamin Naishtat



Dare I say that it’s impossible to fall for a film that sets the stage with an opening title card that reads: “1835. Argentina. Anarchy. Plague.” As for the scene that follows? Well, let’s just say that you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Anchored by a sensational performance from Pablo Cedrón, Benjamín Naishtat’s sophomore feature, a thematic follow-up to his award-winning Berlin competition title History of Fear, is an exciting and daring evocation of the wild, free-for-all foundation of the Argentine state… with maybe a slight hint of Peckinpah lurking somewhere in the background.

With a piercing gaze, Cedrón charts a mysterious, shadowy figure, a charismatic, power-mad (and possibly just plain mad) leader with but two dedicated younger followers, who traverses the Pampas trying to marshal resources for “El Movimiento,” a vaguely drawn political movement that promises to lead the country out of its dark times. (Dark is the operative word: most of the moody, monochromatic 1.33 film is shot at night with minimal light.)

One of the three features made for this year’s Jeonju Cinema Project, the aggressively edited El Movimiento shows how any filmmaker can, with limited means and time and complete artistic freedom, still produce a wholly unique cinematic universe. While presenting a pulsating vision of the early days of Argentine politics based on historical research, Naishtat also manages to speak directly to the country’s volatile, present situation. He’s made a gut-punch of a film that lives up to Hobbes’ characterization of the anarchic condition: nasty, brutal and short. 

Mark Peranson

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