The familiar tale of a clandestine immigrant looking for a better life in a new land is given another look in “Bolivia,” a b&w video blow-up that uses its grainy, handheld look to give the story a strong docu look. Characters are strong, if one step away from stereotypes, and helmer Israel Adrian Caetano (“Pizza, Birra, Faso”) directs them respectfully. Though not the kind of film that is likely to go far theatrically, it is a dignified second film for Caetano, who should be heard from again.
Action takes place in a cheap restaurant in Buenos Aires’ scenic Palermo Viejo quarter. The grill’s owner, Don Enrique (the sole professional thesp, Enrique Liporace), saves money by hiring cheap immigrant labor. The Paraguayan Rosa (Rosa Sanchez) waits tables. Freddy (Freddie Flores), who has just arrived from Bolivia, is hired to cook.
The open racism of customers like Oso (Oscar Bertea) is contrasted to the more subtle discrimination of Enrique and taxi driver Marcelo (Marcelo Videla.) Pic points out the not surprising fact that their intolerance extends to gays and drug addicts. In Flores’ very dignified perf, Freddy bravely faces the hardships of his struggle to earn a living. Ironically, he explains that he lost his job as a field hand back home when the Americans razed the local cocaine fields.
Julian Apezteguia’s ever-shifting camera describes each character in turn. At times it indulges in details like Freddy’s 10-peso phone call (he earns 15 a day) to his wife and kids back in Bolivia, or when he is stopped and frisked by police officers with little sympathy for immigrants. In other moments, pic glides into a more fictional mode, constructing an entire sequence of images around the catchy sounds of the music group Los Kjarcas.