Argentina Launches 'Fictions Watch' Paris' Salon

Puenzo, Figueras, Martinez and De Santis in Paris to highlight big screen potential of Argentine literature

PARIS – Lucia Puenzo’s “Nine Minutes,” Marcelo Figueras’ “The Spy Through Time” and Guillermo Martinez’s “Regarding Roderer” feature in “Fictions To Watch,” a pioneering Argentine catalogue of literary properties apt for a big-screen transfer.

Made up of 30-or-so descriptions of adaptable Argentine works, “Fictions” is being launched at Paris’ Salon du Livre, its book fair which runs March 21-24. Argentina is this year’s guest country of honor.

Puenzo (pictured), Figueras, Martinez and Pablo de Santis, whose “Encyclopedia On the Bonfire” also makes the catalogue’s cut, will present “Fictions” Monday at the Salon, in a round-table moderated by Victor Bassuk, Fictions’ chief co-ordinator.

Initiated by Argentina’s Jorge Coscia, its long-term Secretary of Culture, “Fictions To Watch” comes at a time of “high demand for high quality content, whether for film or one-off drama or television series,” Bassuk argued. After occasional but vaunted page-to-screen transfers, it aims to build a more structured and permanent bridge between Argentine literature and the film industry- in and outside Argentina.

Written by novelist/film director Puenzo, who adapted her own novel for “The German Doctor” (aka “Wakolda”), a Samuel Goldwyn Films U.S. pick-up, 2013’s “Nine Minutes” captures in its titular time the moment when a motley group of confronted adultescents – a couple, its teen son, friends and lovers – take decisions which define or at least hint at the rest of their lives.

From the author of “Crimenes imperceptibles,” adapted by Alex de la Iglesia as “The Oxford Murders,” “Roderer” narrates the difficult friendship between two brilliant teens, one of which shuts himself away to discover a new philosophical sense to life..

A procedural-come-philosophical thriller set in an imaginary South American state, Figueras’ “The Spy Through Time” narrates how a retired detective is brought in to investigate the hideous murders of four figureheads of a just-ended dictatorship.

Further Fictions To Watch works – in a purposefully wide-ranging selection that straddles historical drama, the romantic novel, comedy, thrillers, adventure stories, and political narrative – include “The Land of Fire,” a historical novel that pits English explorers against Yamana natives, by Silvia Iparaguirre; and “A Shark with Sad Eyes,” Rubén Tizziani’s story about a beautiful island shaken by horrendous crimes.

Argentina’s literary/movie relationship has already been intermittent but impressive, argued Bassuk, highlighting Lemmy Caution’s liberal citations of Jorge Luis Borges in Jean Luc Godard’s “Alphaville.” In just two of multiple other examples, Bernardo Bertolucci adapted Borges’ ”The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” in 1970s’ “The Spider’s Strategem;” Godard, again, made over Julio Cortazar’s “The Southern Thruway” in “Le Weekend.”

Near a half century after “Alphaville,” the long shadow of Borges, the towering genius of 20th century short-story writing and Argentine high-fantasy in general, still falls across not only the title Fictions To Watch, which echoes Borges’ most celebrated shirt story collection, but also some of the selection’s highest-profile offerings.

In Borges, who in turn channeled Edgar Allen Poe, philosophical conjecture, often of a more fantastical bent, is rendered real in fictional worlds. De Santis’ “Encyclopedia” turns on a book-lover obsessed at encapsulating the whole world in one tome; Van Upp, the detective of “A Spy Through Time,” cites Shakespeare with a coroner friend; Roderer, a fevered genius, sets out on a life’s pursuit of “what Spinoza and De Quincey attempted, the grand vision which haunted Nietzsche: The new human understanding.” He finds it; or so he thinks.

Born around the turn of the century, the so-called New Argentine Cinema – think Pablo Trapero, Lucrecia Martel, Juan Jose Campanella, or indeed Lucia Puenzo – has brought Argentina international honors, fame and prestige. Fictions attempts to allow new Argentine literature, via big screen makeovers, to share something of the limelight too.

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