Some things don’t change. Graced by Viggo Mortensen and Paul Schrader, the International Competition jury prexy, Argentina’s 29thMar del Plata Festival will bow Nov. 22 with Abel Ferrara’s “Pasolini.”
Its choice as Mar del Plata’s opening night movie is pretty well a declaration of principles that Latin America’s only “A” grade festival will go on through thick and thin – and, with only 29 editions in 60 years, there’s been much of both – to forefront latest titles from and here even about heavyweight auteurs.
That is not necessary. If Variety’s reviewers are to go by, 2014 in general has caught some of the great auteurs in world cinema at the top of their game. If Cannes Festival sales had any narrative this year, it was how fast its big art film winners sold – think “Leviathan,” “Winter Sleep” – compared to bigger budget U.S. indie projects.
Adding cache to Mar del Plata’s International Competition, and packing out an Authors sidebar, are some on-top-form established auteurs. Competition features Pedro Costa’s “Horse Money,” a phantasmagorical study of a haunted mind. Auteurs includes Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s Venice hit “Birdman,” and showbiz satire, which has propelled Michael Keaton into Oscar forecasts, Lav Diaz’s “From What Is Before,” Locarno Festival’s Golden Leopard winner, a five-and-a-half hour “hauntingly beautiful picture,” chronicling the decline of a small coastal district.
Also in Authors: “Ned Rifle,” reckoned a return to form for Hal Hartley, “Li’l Quinquin,” a new and successful avenue explored by France’s Bruno Dumont – a comedy chronicle of a police investigation in a French hamlet, plus Johnnie To’s day trader romcom sequel “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2,” Frederick Wiseman’s museum portrait “National Gallery,” Mia Hansen-Love’s French club scene-tale “Eden” and Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Jury Prize winner “Mommy,” a troubled mother-son drama.
But, says Mar Del Plata artistic director Fernando Spiner, “There’s a clear attempt in the programming to forefront films from contrasting directors, different takes on reality, different kinds of reality.” The International Competition bears that out.
Beyond Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy,” two titles in the 12-pic line-up are debuts: Venice Critics’ Week opener “Melbourne,” from Iran’s Nima Javidi, an Iran-set domestic thriller. Hitchcock with a social underbelly, and “August Winds,” by Brazil’s Gabriel Mascaro, a product of Brazil’s burgeoning regional cinema scene- here Pernambuco – which typifies a new type of Latin American realism: It delivers a slice of life, a portrait of a young-couple’s life in a coastal village, but does so with a variety of shot set-up and even type of cinema, which galvanizes the filmmaking.
The International Competition also features five talked-up sophomore pics: “Alive,” from South Korea’s Park Jung-bum (“Journals of Musan”), which finds an epic in a labourer’s struggle to make ends meet, Turk Huseyin Karabey’s ”Come to My Voice,” a Kafkaesque tale of a Kurdish girl’s relation with her grandmother; and Hermes Paralluelos’ Colombian aged couple drama “Not All Is Vigil,” admired by many of those who caught it at September’s San Sebastián.
Mar del Plata is “a contact point for a Latin American public with the best cinema in the world and a reference, beacon and window onto Latin America cinema,”
Latin American filmmaking permeates the near entire Festival, generating major sections – the Latin American and Argentina competitions, its main industry event – a Work in Progress for Argentine projects – and multiple tributes: Among them, Mexico’s Jaime Humberto Hermosilla, Peru’s Francisco Lombardi, and rgentina’s Daniel Tinayre, whose “La Patota” is currently being remade by Santiago Mitre.
Three Argentine pics have made the International Competition cut: Lisandro Alonso’s Cannes Un Certain Regard prize winner “Jauja,” with Mortenssen; rock band reunion tale “Somebody’s Life, from Ezequial Acuña, best known for “Swimming Alone” and “Like a Crashed Plane,” two low-key tales of teen yearnings; crime thriller ”El Perro Molina,” about a delinquent with scruples embroiled in a tragic marriage.
As it seeks to raise its international profile, Mar del Plata can look to a clutch of boosters: Stability at the fest helm, where Fernando Spiner takes over as fest artistic director from Laura Bruno, who has moved to Spiner’s old post of general producer; the ever larger lure of Argentine cinema at foreign fests (though real international B.O. break-outs still remain rare); far larger synergies with Ventana Sur.
Pushing back its dates, Mar del Plata Festival this year snuggles up to Ventana Sur, Latin America’s biggest film mart-meet, ending Nov. 29, just two days before Ventana Sur’s Dec.1 bow. Per Spiner, the date change “will allow a large number of programmers, distributors and producers who will be at Ventana Sur to also come to Mar del Plata, especially for its second half Work in Progress.”
Viggo Mortensen (“Jauja”), Carlos Vermut (“Magical Girl”), Nacho Vigalondo (“Open Windows”) and Claire Denis, for a career overview, figure among special guests.
Paul Schrader will preside the international jury: Members include Gerardo Herrero and Soledad Villamil, producer and femme lead of ”The Secret of Their Eyes,” Chilean Paris-based director Valeria Sarmiento, Vermut, who won San Sebastian with his second feature outing “Magical Girl,” and writer Manu Yañez Murillo.
Potential Mar del Plata highlights also include “O velo do restelo,” a 19-minute short from the near 106-year-old Manoel do Oliveira, where Don Quixote talks three great Portuguese writers: Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes, nineteenth-century Romantic Camilo Castelo-Branco, and Nobel Prize nominated Teixeira de Pascoaes.
29TH MAR DE PLATA INTL. FILM FESTIVAL NOV. 22-29, 2014