MAR DEL PLATA – Three tales of neurosis, happy or not – “Alptraum,” from Ana Piterbarg (“Everybody Has a Plan”), Daniel Rosenfeld’s “To The Center of the Earth” and Balatasar Tokman’s “Looking For Myu” feature in the 29th Mar del Plata’s Work in Progress.
Running Nov. 20 and 21 in three sessions at Argentina’s Mar del Plata Festival, where filmmakers have up to 12 minutes to present their films, currently in post, the WIP reps the major industry event at Mar del Plata, and is dated strategically this year to unspool only three days before Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur.
Jury is made up of Sandro Fiorin, co-head of L.A.-based sales-production company FiGa Films, a key champion of challenging Latin American art films, French producer and former Madrid distributor-exhibitor Mariel Guiot, and producer Pablo Ratto (“Open Wound”).
Piterbarg’s follow-up to Viggo Mortensen-starrer “Everybody Has a Plan,” “Alptraum” turns on a young playwright-actor whose romantic obsessions – his ex-girlfriend’s infidelity, his new love interest’s disappearance – prove self-fulfilling paranoias. A multi-lateral international production, and at heart a loving father-son relationship drama, “Earth,” shot in a neo docu-style, relates a father’s battle to bequeath to his young son his passion to prove UFO activity around his home village.
A creative doc, Baltazar Tokman’s “Looking For Myu,” frames another but less felicitous tale of obsession: a magician’s who, seeing his daughter playing with an invisible friend, seeks proof of such figures’ existence.
Focusing on Argentine movies, with 22 titles Mar del Plata’s Work in Progress can put in a good claim to being one of the most voluminous in the world. It also pinpoints trends, in Arentine, or Latin American cinema.. One is the presence of obsessive or unreliable leads, some actors or performers, movies which tip their hats most surely to Argentina’s towering tradition of fantasy literature and unreliable narrators : Think Jorge Luis Borges or Julio Cortázar.
Alejandro Parysow’s satire “Campaña antiargentina,” produced by Nicolas Batlle (“The German Doctor”), features an increasingly delirious actor-musician who stumbles on a conspiracy, or so he thinks, to destroy Argentina. “Casa de teatro,” Hernan Rossell’s follow-up to slice-of-Buenos Aires life “Mauro,” the 2014 Fipresci Bafici winner, is a documentary, now in post, on an 80-year-old actor, his life story, anecdotes, sense of drifting. His look-back is sometimes laced with fantasy.
Two other trends: a regional cinema presence, most notably from Cordoba; a genre pair, as Argentina’s young directors increasingly embrace thrillers, gore or more options in scarefare.
“Cambio de aire,” from Rosendo Ruiz, whose “De Caravana” is one of the emblematic early titles from Cordoba’s new film scene, is a coming of age tale, product of a Cordoba teen writing workshop, in which three high-school friends escape to the sierras, seeking a new life.
Also to be pitched at Mar del Plata, Dario Mascambroni’s “Primero, enero” weighs in as a Cordoba Sierra-set father-son vacation tale, marked by his divorce and the passage of time.
Of genre fare, Mariano Dawidson’s long-in-preparation “La sangre del gallo,” now in post, is a kidnap thriller; “El eslabon podrido” – literally, “The Rotten Link” – cleaves to classic splatterfest cannons, weighing in as a rural bloodbath dramedy from the prolific producer-writer-director Valentin Javier Diment, a regular Fernando Spiner co-scribe (notably, recently, on gaucho Western “Six Shooters”), in which a village idiot commits village-cide.
As Argentine cinema, like Latin American films in general slips towards the mainstream, Works in Progress features two romantic tales – “El invierno llega después que el otoño, from Malena Solarz and Nicolas Zukefeld, an original take on the story of a couple after they’ve split up and go their separate ways, and Fernando Cricenti’s “Veredas,” an urban romcom, set in an off-kilter Buenos Aires. But the selection has only one straight-arrow social drama: Eugenio Canevari’s “Paula,” shot in Pergamino, in the province of Buenos Aires, which turns on a maid on a rural estate who suffers an unwanted pregnancy.
As Latin American cinema moves mainstream, its traditional social focus remains in a valiant documentary output. Of titles in post to be shown at Mar del Plata, Pablo Aguero’s docu-feature “Madre de los Dioses,” focuses on five single mothers, spiritual guides in different religions, who build a temple together; Federico Palmas’ “El exilio de las Malvinas,” narrates three men’s accounts of being forced out of the Falkland Isles,
Mar del Plata’s WIP also features multiple film essays: Ignacio Masllorens’ “El monumento,” about a polemical statue of General Roca in Bariloche; Macarena Albalustri’s “Ensayo de despedida,” about good-byes; “Implantación,” about the Villa Lugano I and II housing complexes, built in the ‘70s, and two monolithic eyesores; Federico Robles’ “La Herencia,” about his grandfather, a Spanish Civil Guard who fought for Franco, and his family legacy. Javier Zevallos’ “Zebras” turns on Argentina’s street soccer team.
Some films to be shown at Mar del Plata resist pidgeon-holing: Comedy “Upa! 2: The Return” – the sequel to 2006’s hit film-of-an-indie-film-production – reunites Tamae Garateguy, Santaigo Giralt and Camila, all of whom, despite the conflicted filmmaking process portrayed in the original and sequel, have gone on to successful careers, Garateguy’s “Pompeii” and “She Wolf” screening at Austin’s SXSW and Fantastic Fest, respectively.