8 Films Set In Patagonia14 May, 2012
Recent years have seen an increasing number of films set in Patagonia, a Southern area of Argentina and Chile that continaully attracts tourism due to it’s extreme geology, marine life and mountain slopes, but also provides the perfect platform for film-makers who love the isolated communities that live there as much as the vast landscapes that create a blank canvas upon which to craft their story. Here, we select a number of these new films as well as a few classics, all set – to steal a Bruce Chatwin book title – in Patagonia.
Historias Mínimas and Bombón: El Perro
No-one has better explored the characters of Patagonia than Carlos Sorin in his two films Historias Mínimas (aka Minimal Stories and Intimate Stories) and Bombón: El Perro. The first of these tells the stories of a number of ordinary people living in Santa Cruz in Argentina: Roberto has a crush on one of his clients but keeps letting anxiety get the better of him; María Flores is off to star on a TV game show; and Don Justo is looking for his dog Badface, who has recently disappeared. The film focuses on the smaller details of life, creating realistic, humanistic portraits of all the film’s characters, and the simple but riveting lives they lead.
Bombón: El Perro continues with the dog theme, following the story of Coco, an unemployed Argentine who is unexpectedly given a dog. However, this is no ordinary dog; it’s an animal that will change Coco’s life forever. This film often feels like a modern-day fable, with the blank Patagonian landscape and the sparse use of music and dialogue allowing the relationship between man and dog to truly flourish. It’s a worthy successor to Historias Mínimas, which won much critical acclaim on release.
Marc Evans’ Patagonia explores the relationship between Wales and Patagonia, following two stories on either side of the Atlantic. In Wales, Rhys is offered a job documenting the chapels of Patagonia, and decides to take girlfriend Gwen along for the journey. Meanwhile, in Argentina, Cerys has told the family she needs to go to Buenos Aires for a hospital appointment, with her young grandson Alejandro coming along to take care of her. No-one realises she has secretly bought two plane tickets to Wales where she hopes to find the village where her mother grew up. This is an excuisitely shot film, with the two parallel stories complementing each other throughout. What’s most surprising is the difference between the green hills of rural Wales and the sparse plains of Patagonia, an insight that gives you some idea of what the Welsh must have felt when some of them originally emigrated to Argentina.
You can read our full review of Patagonia here.
Carrying on the Welsh connection we have this interesting documentary starring Gruff Rhys (from Welsh pop/rock band Super Furry Animals) who is on the look-out for his long-lost uncle René Griffiths, who was also a famous musician. This takes him through Brazil and onto Argentina, and includes a number of jam sessions with musicians along the way. Anyone who has followed the career of Gruff Rhys will not be surprised by the irreverent, jocular nature of Gruff through the journey, and probably enjoy those qualities, though this approach can sometimes leave situations feeling a little hollow. Still, Separado! is a very amusing document of Welsh/Argentine culture.
In various countries it’s known as Il Richiamo (Italian), La Llamada (Spanish), Le Voyage de Lucia (French) and just plain ol’ The Call in English. This film is a Argentine/Italian co-production that sets two very different women in Buenos Aires; the restrained Lucia who has begun to suspect her husband is having an affair, and the open, young and hyper-active Lea. When Lucia decides to leave her job as a stewardess in favour of becoming a piano teacher, Lea is her first student. A fertile friendship thus blooms after some initial personality clashes, and leads to the two of them packing their bags and heading for Patagonia. The film’s story could lead you to think that this could be a very one-dimensional film about finding oneself, however interesting characterisation and strong performances from the two leads, make this one riveting picture.
When making this list we sent out the message on Facebook and Twitter for suggestions, and one of our own writers Zach Bezold came back with 180º South. This wasn’t one that instantly came to mind as much of the film is set at sea and in Easter Island, however the whole point of the film was to reach Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia, meaning that ultimately it’s destination was this Patagonia list! Surfer and photographer Jeff Johnson was so inspired from watching Mountain of Storms, a 1968 documentary following Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins from California to Mount Fitz Roy that he knew one day he would have to do the journey himself. This film is that journey, with Johnson taking a route by boat to Chile, albeit with a long-term stay in Easter Island where the boat has to be fixed. This is a great film for climbers, surfers, environmentalists and adventurers of all sorts.
You can read our interview with Jeff Johnson here.
La Patagonia Rebelde
This is the first of two choices that were suggested by Hipi Duki Muzik on Facebook. Incredibly, this is also a film that someone has uploaded in it’s entirety to Youtube (albeit without subtitles – time to practice your Spanish perhaps?). I’m guessing it’s not legal but it’s definitely a good opportunity to watch one of our selection. La Patagonia Rebelde (or Rebellion In Patagonia) is an Argentine drama from 1974, based on Osvaldo Bayer’s novel Los Vengadores de la Patagonia Trágica (“The Avengers of Tragic Patagonia”), which was based upon a military suppression of anarchist union movements in Santa Cruz in the early 1920s.
Un Lugar En El Mundo
The second of Hipi Duki Muzik’s choices was Un Lugar En El Mundo (or A Place In The World), a hugely acclaimed Argentine film from 1992 which was directed by Adolfo Aristarain. It’s the only film ever to be disqualified from the Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars after initially being nominated. In the case of Un Lugar En El Mundo it was disqualified after being submitted by Uruguay, with the Academy deciding that the country had not exercised sufficient artistic control over the film. It’s still a great film though, a coming-of-age story set amongst the world of Argentine politics, that you can also watch in full without subtitles on Youtube
And if you could set a song in Patagonia maybe this would be it:
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