South American Films at the BFI London Film Festival Part Two (Patagonia and It’s Your Fault)

By 31 October, 2010

This is our second review of some of the South American films that were showing as part of the 54th BFI London Film Festival. You can read the first part HERE. Unfortunately we were’nt able to see all the films we would have liked but time and life came in. This does still mean though that we have films such as Octubre, Southern District, The Peddler and What I Love the Most to look forward to in the future.

Patagonia (British, 2010)
Dir: Marc Evans

This film is an absolute delight from start to finish. Essentially two simultaneous road movies it tells the story of Rhys, a Welsh photographer setting off an assignment to Patagonia with his girlfriend Gwen in tow, and Cerys, a Patagonian native on a mission to see the land which her mother had left behind. Her neighbour’s son Alejandro joins her, believing that he is simply accompanying her to Buenos Aires.

It’s this tale of Cerys and Alejandro that contains the film’s heart. Cerys is the wise, knowing elder who has seen it all and fears nothing, Alejandro the naive youngster fearful of visiting a new country and the new experiences it will bring. For Alejandro then this is a coming-of-age story and for Cerys, who is beautifully played by Marta Lubos, it is a resolution. A circle that was started by her mother leaving Wales for Argentina is about to be completed.

In the other story, Gwen has decided to join Rhys on his trip to Patagonia in order to inject a bit of much-needed excitment into their relationship. With Rhys intent on working while in Argentina this does not go to plan, and with Mateo their horse-riding guide getting closer to Gwen, their relationship may in fact be under its greatest strain.

While the characters in the Welsh storyline are far more likeable, this is because they are at the extremes of life and so bring that classic two opposites attract warmth to the film, whereas with Gwen and Rhys things are a lot more complicated. Their relationship and emotions are much more complex, reaching a point where the only way things can improve is for someone to get hurt. These two very different lives serve to complement each other very well. While a whole story of Gwen and Rhys could become slightly over-bearing I also feel that if it was just Cerys and Alejandro you could be looking at something approaching a caricature.

In both stories the scenery is stunning, and the difference between the green, rolling hills of Northern Wales and dusty, flat Patagonian landscapes have never felt so disparate. Add this to the superb acting, writing and direction, and you have an excellent film.

The producers stated after the showing of this film that it would be receiving a general release in March 2011, which is good news indeed.

It’s Your Fault (Por Tu Culpa) (Argentina, 2010)
Dir: Anahí Berneri

It’s Your Fault is a very personal, visceral story detailing a night and morning in the life of Julieta after one of her two children falls off the bed, hitting his head, as a skuffle breaks out just before bedtime. It’s a very claustrophobic experience with the worries and actions of Julieta being felt by the viewer. On first glance it seems that Teo simply fell off the bed but as the film continues it becomes more and more doubtful, not other similar actions are revealed but simply because the event is examined in so much detail that doubt is bound to creep in. In this respect, it is an examination of motherhood and societal fears about child care. Sometimes kids do hurt themselves, and in some of these cases, it might have been the parent who dropped them, or knocked them over, purely by accident. When these kids are then treated and, as in this case, Valentín, the older son, states that Teo was in fact pushed by Julieta, the doctors are well within their rights to question the children’s safety.

It’s a movie which opens an interesting debate as to how thin the line can be when deciding that a child has been treated. For me, it was a little over-wrought. It revels in its slow-building nature, examining every aspect of the drama without revealing a single detail. This is often frustrating as the cold nature of the examination as well as the sleepy nature of all involved (the plot occurs between bedtime and sunrise) mean that the characters rarely get the chance to show humour or their true personality. At the same time, this is it’s greatest strength as an examination as our judgement is not clouded by favouritism.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to everyone. It requires someone with either patience or a real interest in child care to sit through what are some painfully slow moments.

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