Combining a distinctive, feel-good study of the economic crisis from which Argentina is now emerging with an homage to the transforming power of movies, Alberto Yaccelini’s eighth docu, the modest, enjoyable and often hilarious “People of Saladillo,” is its own best example that money is not an obstacle for those with the right attitude. Providing a new slant on the term “independent cinema,” no-frills docu successfully fulfills its aim of telling its simple story well, and seems tailor-made for fest auds and those who have ever dreamed of making movies themselves.
Eternal optimists Julio Midu and Fabio Junco are dedicated amateurs who go home after work to make movies starring the inhabitants of their midsized pueblo Saladillo, a little more than 100 miles from Buenos Aires. Generally colorful locals include a couple of shop assistants, a rabbit-breeder, a pig farmer-cum-faith healer and the mayor of Saladillo (who has reportedly expressed dissatisfaction at the film’s portrayal of the town).
When the local priest refuses to let the filmmakers shoot a marriage scene in his church, believing it would be sacrilegious, the helmers, through skillful editing, allow the priest to condemn himself with his own words.Still, Midu and Junco are a self-deprecating pair, laughing along when a friend suggests their movies are risible and that they are unable to correctly pronounce the word “Hitchcock.” Gentle, compassionate humor abounds, and even the bitter feels less sharp.
The movies themselves, peanut-budgeted, shot over three weekends and with titles like “Hidden Passions” and “Stolen Dreams,” make your average Lat-Am soap look like Fellini, but the scripters take care to lard them with a little social crit. They play in Saladillo’s one remaining cinema and are then picked up by national TV.
The script is careful to show, mostly via interviews with writer Susana Soba, that making the movies has a therapeutic function for many of those involved, offering them and the town a sense of identity to offset their sense of having been abandoned by the country’s politicians (pic was shot with 2001’s crisis still fresh).
The day before the premiere of “Hidden Passions,” the directors discover the owners of the local movie house have sold the place and taken the screen with them — but they don’t let a little problem like that postpone opening night.
For the record, similar community cinema ventures have sprung up all over Argentina in the wake of the Saladillo project.