Celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, or BAFICI, begins this Wednesday, April 10 and runs through Sunday, April 21. The event is among the largest in South America, drawing over 350,000 to its film screenings and other events. Of the more than 400 features and shorts in its lineup, more than a quarter are feature documentaries, appearing throughout the various sections of the festival. While I’ve sadly never had the opportunity to attend, I’m impressed by the range of selections and especially by the commitment the organizer have shown to champion their national cinema. If I were heading to Argentina, the following films, broken down section-by-section, are ones that I’d seek out:
BAFICI has several official competition categories – Argentine and International features, Avant-Garde & Genre features, and Argentine shorts. The first of these features fifteen examples of the country’s filmmaking talent, including several documentaries: Agustina Massa and Fernando Krapp’s BEATRICE PORTINARI. A DOCUMENTARY ON AURORA VENTURINI, a portrait of a remarkably well-connected author whose pseudonym was the name of Dante’s muse; Lía Dansker’s ANTONIO GIL, an exploration of the titular popular culture gaucho saint; and Iván Fund and Andreas Koefoed’s AB (pictured), three days in the life of two young female friends who must decide to stay in their small town or leave for the big city.
The fest’s International competition focuses on emerging directors. The twenty selections include first, second, or third films, with a number of docs: Jorge Tur Moltó’s TELL ME ABOUT SANCHICORROTA (pictured), a playful exploration of the legend of a fifteenth century Spanish Robin Hood figure; Sebastian Mez’s METAMORPHOSES, a portrait of the impact of radioactive exposure of Russian nuclear plants on the surrounding landscape and its inhabitants; and Antoine Cattin and Pavel Kostomarov’s PLAYBACK, a film about the making of the late Russian director Alexei German’s long in-the-work sci-fi epic.
New this year is a competition focused on presenting two opposite forms of filmmaking – avant-garde and genre films – outside their typical museum and midnight contexts, respectively. Nearly half of the section includes non-fiction or hybrid films, including Giovanni Maderna and Mauro Santini’s CARMELA, SAVED BY THE BUCCANEERS, a semi-adaptation of a pirate adventure; Eloy Enciso’s ARRAIANOS (pictured), a meditation on a town on the border of Spain and Portugal; and Sylvain George’s VERS MADRID – THE BURNING BRIGHT! (SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE REVOLUTION), a document of various popular demonstrations on the streets of Madrid in 2011.
Screening out of competition in the official selection are seven additional features, described by BAFICI as “red-carpet movies.” Receiving prime placement, these include, among others, the documentaries THE GREAT PRETENDER (pictured), Néstor Frenkel’s profile of the renowned one-handed card magician René Lavand; and THE EMPTY OLYMPUS, Pablo Racioppi and Carolina Azzi’s political confrontation with Argentine history and myth-making.
Also out of competition are the films in the fest’s expansive Panorama section. The main strand includes over 100 titles, more than half of these feature docs. Beyond familiar titles featured at other world class festivals over the past several months like Toronto and IDFA, Panorama’s lineup includes premieres and lesser seen work. Among the new Argentine docs in this section are: Martín Benchimol and Pablo Aparo’s THE RIVER PEOPLE, about a small community’s response to mysterious acts of vandalism; Lucas Larriera and Pepa Astelarra’s LAND ON THE MOON, an investigation into lunar landing conspiracy theories; Mariano Donoso’s AN X-RAY OF THE DESERT, an attempt to put the lie to the idea that there are no undiscovered lands left to explore; Marcelo Charras’ LA PAZ EN BUENOS AIRES (pictured), a look at the popularity of wrestling among the Bolivian community in Buenos Aires; Nikolas Klement’s EKPYROSIS, which documents a Mennonite community in La Pampa; and Alejandra Grinschpun’s STREET YEARS, a longitudinal look at the lives of four homeless men.
International titles appearing in Panorama, among many others, are: Lynn Lee and James Leong’s THE GREAT NORTH KOREAN PICTURE SHOW (pictured), a rare look at the isolated nation’s film industry; Carla Subirana’s FLYING, a profile of the Spanish army’s flight training school; Siobhan Davies and David Hinton’s ALL THIS CAN HAPPEN, a found footage-constructed meditation on the world around us; Fernand Melgar’s THE WORLD IS LIKE THAT, a follow up to the director’s SPECIAL FLIGHT, following the rejected asylum seekers from that film back to their home countries; Gabriel Mascaro’s HOUSEMAIDS, an intimate exploration of the relationships between Brazilian families and their housekeepers; Houchang Allahyari’s THE PERSIAN CROCODILE, pitting man versus nature as several Iranians try to free a trapped crocodile; Vincenzo Marra’s hybrid THE TRIPLET, about the rapport between an imprisoned mobster and the head of the prison guards; and Alberto Fuguet’s LOCACIONES: BUSCANDO A RUSTY JAMES, on the influence of RUMBLE FISH and its Tulsa OK setting for the director and other South American filmmakers.
Nearly twenty music docs get their own Panorama sidebar, appropriately called Music. My personal interest here is limited, with only a small handful of titles catching my eye: Pip Piper’s self-explanatory LAST SHOP STANDING: THE RISE, FALL AND REBIRTH OF THE INDEPENDENT RECORD SHOP, Charles Atlas’ collaboration with Antony & the Johnsons, TURNING, and Andreas Johnsen’s portrait of the rise and quick descent of a Danish hip hop star, KIDD LIFE (pictured).
BAFICI’s documentary programming is rounded out by retrospective screenings celebrating its fifteenth anniversary and the work of select filmmakers, as well as other special programming, such as select episodes of the CINÉASTES and CINÉMA biographical portrait series, and more.