Mar del Plata’s Argentina Competition Highlights Industry Cross Section

A dozen hopefuls vie for one of fest’s top prizes

MAR DEL PLATA – A cross section of Argentina’s burgeoning film industry was on display at the 29th Mar del Plata Film Festival, which unspooled November 22-30. In competition were a wide range of genres, including comedies, dramas, docus, and experimental pics.

Among the 12 pics in the Argentine competition section, comedies and docus were stand-outs, said juror Meghan Monsour, programming director of Mexico’s traveling docu film fest Ambulante, which is in talks to launch an Argentine version.

With perhaps only a few exceptions, most of the filmmakers vying for a prize in the Argentine competition sidebar were born in the ‘70s and ‘80s, representing the fast-growing crop of young filmmakers emerging from Argentina.

Not surprisingly, pics by the older generation showed a firmer command of their material. Dario Doria, whose black and white docu “Salud Rural” about a gentle doctor in the countryside, is 45.

Mariano Galperin, 52, presented a fiction-docu hybrid about Argentine rock-tango musician Daniel Melingo, “Su Realidad,” which enthralled fest auds with its playful verve, music and imagery.

Sebastian Schindel, 39, drew on his docu-making experience to expose the gritty truth behind Argentina’s meat industry in “The Boss: Anatomy of a Crime.” “I continue to enjoy eating meat,” he said wryly.

One of the youngest in the group, Leonardo D’Antoni, 33, combined improvisation and rehearsed lines to draw natural performances from his cast, led by French-Colombian actress Melanie Delloye-Betancourt, who is his wife and co-scribe in “Aventurera,” an otherwise traditional but slickly-made tale of ambition.

Humor is a key element in Adrian Biniez’s “El 5 de Talleres,” Federico Sosa’s “Yo se lo que Envenena,” and Jazmin Stuart’s “Pistas para Volver a Casa,” likely making them the most mainstream of the lot.

The festival is hamstrung, in a way, by its mandate that all Argentine pics in competition may not have screened elsewhere in the country. “Since we’re held at the end of the year, some filmmakers would rather opt for an earlier festival so that they can collect their subsidies from [film institute] INCAA before year end,” said festival artistic director Fernando Spiner. “Otherwise they collect them next year.”

Despite this, Mar del Plata brought in filmmakers who have usually opted to preem their pics at rival fests or abroad.

For the first time, Lisandro Alonso, a Cannes regular, came to Mar del Plata with his latest pic, “Jauja” to vie for a prize in the international section. Raul Perrone, who normally frequents the Buenos Aires indie film fest BAFICI, brought his poetic film essay “Favula” to compete in the Latin American sidebar.

It may have helped that Spiner, who is just on his second year at Mar del Plata, is an accomplished film director himself, and plumbed his close connections to Argentina’s vibrant film community to lure top talent. Damian Szifron, whose “Wild Tales” has been a local box office phenomenon (3.35 million admissions/$18 million and counting), made a quick visit to the fest, which presented his 2015 Foreign Oscar contender at a free outdoor screening by the beach.

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