‘Argentina 1985’

With the return to democracy after years of military dictatorship, the Argentinian civilian government prosecute the leadership for crimes against humanity.

A dour but enthralling procedural telling of the race against time as Chief Prosecutor Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darin – The Secret in Their Eyes, Truman) struggles to find an experienced legal team prepared to work against the former junta. Looking to younger, junior members of the legal profession and supported by Deputy Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani – The Clan, The Unseen), Strassera documents extensive evidence to obtain justice for the hundreds of thousands ‘disappeared’ during the dictatorship.

Directed by Santiago Mitre (Paulina, The Summit), Argentina 1985 is engrossing, nuanced and avoids overly dramatically opportunistic moments in spite of death threats, car bombs and the like to spice up the story. The result is a respectful, no bells and whistles unfolding of the true story.

Nominated for the 2023 Oscar for best foreign language film.

Rating: 69%

‘The Secret In Their Eyes’

A solid police procedural narrative unfolding over many years, the rape and murder of a recently married young woman continues to haunt criminal investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin – Everybody Knows, Truman) long after his retirement.

Interweaving past and present investigations, Esposito refuses to let go, persuading his boss Irene Hastings (Soledad Villamil – El mismo amor la misma lluvia, Un oso rojo) to reopen the case. Political ramifications are at play that lead to tragedy and unexpected results as personal emotions between Esposito and Hastings are kept in check.

An unexpected Oscar for best foreign language film (becoming only the second Argentinian film to win the award), beating out the acclaimed front runners A Prophet (France) and The White Ribbon (Austria), The Secret in Their Eyes, written and directed by Juan José Campanella (El hijo de la novia, El cuento de las comadrejas) is elegant, subdued and engrossing.

Winner of the 2010 Oscar for best foreign language film.

Rating: 73%

‘The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet’

Dispensing with the titular dog a few minutes into its run time, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet proves to be a feature that wholly fails to live up to any expectations. And it’s an enigma to boot – the dog barely makes a sound for the entire time it’s on screen.

Director Ana Katz (Florianopolis Dream, My Friend From the Park) explores everyday banality in monochrome understatement through 30something graphic designer, Sebastian (the director’s brother, Daniel Katz – Straight On Mate, Florianopolis Dream). Until, that is, a natural disaster renders the air poisonous above a metre or so, forcing the population to crouch or purchase a full-head oxygen mask to walk fully erect.

Filmed over many years, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet is a prescient tale. Ana Katz allows the film to amble episodically over time (Sebastian losing his job, becoming a father). But for all its found quirkiness within the mundane, there is little in terms of direct narrative focus.

Rating: 40%

‘The Clan’

The-ClanThe Puccios are a seemingly respectable Buenos Aires family living comfortably in an Argentina of the 1980s under the dictatorship of the military junta.

But, like the country itself, respectability is only skin deep – patriarch Arquimedes (a menacing performance from Guillermo Francella – The Secret in Their Eyes, Rudo & Cursi) heads a criminal gang of kidnappers and extortionists made up predominantly of his family.

It’s all based on a true story and the source material is rich in detail and potential – but sadly any lack of suspense is lost as director Pablo Trapero (Carancho, Lion’s Den) choses a matter-of-fact, somewhat dull approach. Disappointing.

Rating: 51%

‘Embrace of the Serpent’

large_fduupquMZnxdzshu4j2hkaL2CNSIntense, challenging, absorbing and shot in black and white: Embrace of the Serpent is no easy ride.

Two European scientists, forty years apart, are helped by the Amazonian shaman Karamakate to find a sacred healing plant. The two journeys are interwoven as we experience the changes along the river banks of the Amazon: the destruction of the indigenous way of life through the colonialist incursions of the rubber barons and catholic church.

It may be a touch too long at just over two hours, but it’s a heartfelt, stately journey from Colombian writer/director Ciro Guerra (The Wind Journeys, Wandering Shadows) based on the diaries of the two scientists.

Rating: 79%

‘Wild Tales’

Wild-Tales-ImagesSix subversive tragi-comic unconnected tales of revenge – exhilarating filmmaking that is, at times, genuinely funny. But, like reading a book of short stories, it left me suspended and a tad dissatisfied – little depth or character development. Crammed into two hours, the tales are brief – and a little relentless (maybe one too many?).

But its anarchic humour, albeit verging on the sick, is laugh-out-loud, described perfectly by one critic as a mix of Almodovar (the producer) and Tarantino. From the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy over an illegally parked car through to the road rage standoff or wedding celebrations with an edge, director Damián Szifron (On Probation, The Bottom of the Sea) never lets up the pace.

Nominated for best foreign language film Oscar, 2015 (won the corresponding BAFTA Award).

Rating: 69%