Buenos Aires Fest grows despite cuts

'Happiness' takes home film award

BUENOS AIRES — The fifth Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, which shuttered Saturday, confirmed its reputation as Latin America’s most innovative film festival and miraculously managed to grow after Argentina’s economic crisis severely pruned its last round.

With 210 feature films and 40 shorts screened to capacity audiences in ten theaters over 11 days, it was an unqualified success with auds as well as critics. Over 150 international guests attended, including directors Harun Farocki, Peter Mettler and F.J. Ossang, all subjects of personal retros.

Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissoko’s exploration of an African boy on his way to Europe, “Waiting for Happiness,” took home the film award. Eccentric Thai film “Blissfully Yours” by Apichatpong Weerasethakul received the special jury prize, as well as the main Fipresci critics’ award.

Crippled by rocketing lab and film stock costs, the new Argentine films on view lacked the standouts of recent years.

Consensus centered on Albertina Carri’s personal second feature about the disappearance of her parents under the country’s military dictatorship, “The Blondes.” The film received the Audience Award and, together with Santiago Loza’s rigorous study of a lonely man, “Extrano,” the best new Argentine feature prize.

Other well-received works were Celina Murga’s quiet exercise in realism “Ana and the Others” (special jury prize) and a documentary about a mysterious tango singer, “I Don’t Know What Your Eyes Did To Me” by Lorena Munoz and Sergio Wolf.

“I’m not really sure how we got the festival together this year,” admitted fest director Eduardo Antin — better known by his pen name Quintin.

With the peso’s devaluation, the festival’s government grant covered only one-third of the costs. The rest was made up from a variety of sources, including foundations, embassies, institutes and private sponsors. Fest sold circa 100,000 tickets.

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