“Imaginadores,” helmer Daniela Fiore’s celebration of Argentine comicbooks and the people who made them, is thorough, insightful, engaging and inventive. But despite numerous parallels with American comicbook culture, her subject matter is arguably too obscure to attract auds not devoted to filmmaking style or passionate about the integration of live-action and animation. Fiore should, however, be enlisted immediately to do a similar examination of DC Comics and Marvel, because “Imaginadores” marks her as a major talent. Further fest play should be expected.
Working from the hypothesis that the golden age of Argentine comics took place from the ’40s to the ’60s, Fiore interviews the men (all men) who were involved in the production and politicization of what eventually morphed into the graphic novel in Argentine culture. (Despite this established timeframe, some of the really interesting developments occurred during the country’s ’70s-’80s military junta and Dirty War, but Fiore gets to that.)
Like their American counterparts, the comics (titles such as “Hora Cero” and “Frontera”) were an indelible ingredient in their nation’s cultural life, but their importance ebbed with the increasing popularity of television and, later, the Internet.
Much of what Fiore and animation director Julio Azamor get into transcends borders and language barriers. Argentina’s greatest illustrators explored ways to manipulate both the page and the panels; the way one artist would draw hands — which, by extension, made his faces more expressive or dictated their emotional content — is something one needn’t know Spanish to understand.
Fiore works her own magic within the frame, filling a largely talking-head movie with cartoon elements and explanatory balloons, and working with a fluidity that keeps the proceedings in constant, fascinating flux. (If there’s a downside to this, it’s that there isn’t enough room onscreen to subtitle all the elements, so certain things will be lost on non-Spanish-speaking auds.) Azamor puts the comicbooks in motion; throughout the film, Senor Lopez, an always apprehensive cartoon character, scurries about, worried about what’s coming next. What’s coming is a trip.