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American Indies tango in Buenos Aires


By Sandy Mandelberger, Special Events Editor

The 7th edition of the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (BAFICI) is in full swing, and among the 300 plus films is a heady mix of American independent talents. Known as the Sundance of South America, the Festival is devoted to showcasing quirky, individualistic cinema from Europe, Asia, Latin America and, increasingly, the US.

While the focus on indie cinema makes the Sundance reference an easy one, the truth is that this event is more like the Sundance of the early glam, no glitz, just a meeting of the film faithful worshiping at the altar of independent cinema. There are no stars, no red carpets, no goody bags, no irritating agents or pushy publicists. Yes, there are cel phones and an assemblage of industry types all dressed in black. But the focus is on the films, not the deals, not the parties (although Buenos Aires nightlife is legendary, and continues into the wee hours of the morning).

American indies are represented in all the formal sections of the Festival. The sole American film in the International Competition is The Time We Killed, director Jennifer Todd Reeve’s moody meditation on marginal life in New York City. This first feature details the story of an agoraphobic woman who lives secluded in her New York tenement apartment, cut off from people and the city around her. Shot in 16mm black and white, the film gives off a moody glow of a life without color, vibrancy and energy.

The Panorama section, the Festival’s largest, also has a strong representation by American indies. Established auteurs include John Waters’ A Dirty Shame, John Sayles’ Silver City, Hal Hartley’s The Girl From Monday and David Gordon Green’s Undertow.

Young directors represented in the Panorama include Slamdance winner On The Outs (Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik), Asia Argento’s erotic memoir The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Georgina Ridel’s beautifully told tale of growing up Latina in downtown Los Angeles, How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer..

Documentaries are a Festival highlight, with crowds thronging to such films as Inside Deep Throat, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s homage to the porno film that started it all; Outfoxed: Ruper Murdoch’s War On Journalism, Robert Greenwald’s fascinating account of the influences behind the Murdoch media empire; The Other Side of AIDS, Robin Scovill’s controversial film that questions the connection between the HIV Virus and the AIDS epidemic; and Katy Chevigny’s Deadline, the story of one governor’s attempt to undo his state’s archaic laws on capital punishment.

In a country still dealing with the aftermath of the killing of over 100 Jews in a bombing attack on a Jewish cultural center in the mid 1990s (the perpetrators were never found), the Festival’s mini-section of films of Jewish culture is a major step in the healing process. American indies make up most of the films in the section, including Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, Andrew Jarecki’s Capturing The Friedmans and Jonathan Kesselman’s The Hebrew Hammer (with Adam Goldberg, the Jewish Marlon Brando).

A strand of films devoted to Music includes the American indie titles Lovedolls Superstar, a portrait of the punk rock band in their 1980s glory by director Dave Markey; Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, the tale of the singer songwriter who died too soon, directed by Nyla Adams and Laurie Trombley; Be Here To Love Me : A Film About Townes Van Zandt by Margaret Brown; Antoine Fuqua’s celebration of the blues Lightning In A Bottle; and Sundance winner DIG, the battle of the bands saga of the Dandy Warhols vs. The Jonestown Massacre.

As if this was not American feast enough, the Festival is also presenting a series of exhaustive Retrospectives honoring the works of such diverse American talents as silent film giant D.W. Griffith, subversive animator Bill Plympton, direct cinema pioneers Albert and David Maysles, photographer/avant guardist Robert Frank and B Movie auteur Monte Hellman.

By creating this truly amazing program of the best of new and almost lost American cinema, the Festival is singlehandedly educating local audiences to the fact that American cinema is not just Hollywood. As I said, Sundance without the goody bags.

Sandy Mandelberger

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