Joining a growing number of films that have been inspired by terrorist tragedy, in this case the July 18, 1994, bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, “18-J” comprises 10 shorts of roughly 10 minutes each from 10 Argentine helmers, including international names like Daniel Burman, Alberto Lecchi and Carlos Sorin. This worthy and affecting homage features styles from abstract to hard-hitting. Political fest sidebars are the pic’s likeliest destination, along with arthouses in territories with a cultural interest in the tragedy.
Pic opens with Adrian Caetano’s overly aesthetic “86,” an abstract item showing the effects of a bomb on objects — flowers, books, a birthday cake — as recalled by a blinded man.
Daniel Burman’s (“Lost Embrace”) untitled piece explores the effects of the bomb on the neighborhood where it took place via personal testimony and images of desolation.
In Lucia Cedron’s domestic “Mitzvah,” an elderly couple, crotchety grandfather (Norman Erlich) and grandmother (Adriana Aizemberg), prepare for a bar mitzvah following a long-distance phone call with their daughter, who is going out with a Palestinian. This section, alone, bravely features moments of gentle humor.
Lecchi’s “The Call” is a terrifically evocative piece showing how even distant lives are affected. Set in a mountain pueblo a thousand miles from Buenos Aires, where a woman’s son has gone in search of work, pic understatedly portrays the rising tension as the mother (Silvia Gallegos) and her daughter Luna (Marina Vilte) wait for hours by the town’s only telephone for the potentially dreadful news from the capital.
Others include Alejandro Doria’s “Shame,” about the political cover-up following the bombing (the perpetrators have never been caught). Mauricio Wainrot’s “Tearful” features dancer Laura Cucchetti in an elegant, but somewhat portentous dance piece, while Adrian Suar’s “Surprise” punchily shows the arbitrariness of terrorism in selecting its victims.
Pic saves its best till last with Carlos Sorin’s (“Minimal Stories”) affecting “Memory,” which simply shows headshots of the victims to the accompaniment of a Handel aria. The final, heartbreaking image is of a 5-year-old.
As a byproduct, pic reps an often perceptive overview of Argentine life at several social levels. Though many of the dead were Jewish, most helmers have significantly emphasized the universality of the tragedy rather than focusing on Jewish victimization.
Tech levels are good to high.