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Zurich focuses on Argentina

It was announced today that the Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) has chosen Argentina as the country of focus for its popular New World View series at this year’s Festival. The announcement was made today by ZFF Directors Karl Spoerri and Nadja Schildknecht.

Highlighting different countries every year, ZFF’s New World View series presents films from a country whose current filmmaking stands out in global comparison, opens new perspectives and broadens the cinematic horizon. From September 26 to October 4, 2009, the festival will, in the presence of industry luminaries, showcase young and powerful works of film from Argentina.

Previously showcasing works from Israel and Russia, this year the 5th Zurich Film Festival is showcasing a diversified selection of exciting and exclusive Argentine fiction and documentary films.

Over the last ten years there has been a noticeable surge in the number of acclaimed films emerging from Argentina, including films that have won prestigious international awards in places like Venice, Sundance and Berlin. The latest line of young Argentine directors drive this film culture with their energy and creativity, while those from the first generation of the so-called “Nuevo Cine Argentino” continue to shoot exciting and innovative films.

It is with this in mind that the Zurich Film Festival will highlight this intoxicating film nation in its New World View series running from September 26 until October 4 at the Corso cinema.

“This year’s selection of films is characterised by intimate and personal stories where poetic and lyrical moments shine through the thick, unvarnished banality of everyday life”, says Monika Wagenberg, curator of the series. The seven films in this series give an overview of the current cinematic landscape in Argentina. It follows a trend within which many works by women and many first and second works by directors can be found.”

The end of the 90’s saw the production of numerous pioneering low-budget films by a new generation of filmmakers in Argentina. Often shot with hand-held cameras, many in black & white and using amateur actors, these films attracted international attention. This initial impulse has led to the creation of a multifaceted, shifting and spirited film culture with a variety of budgets, styles and aesthetics. Young talents still provide fresh wind finding their own forms for their own stories; this, however, does not just create a continual flow but also allows for many fluctuating movements. This energy shows effect way beyond the country’s own borders as other Latin American film industries are also being influenced and are now finding themselves in a period of prosperity.

The opening day on Saturday, September 26th will offer the additional opportunity to see the country from its musical and culinary side. The Winterthur Short Film Festival will also present cinematic treats in the form of Argentine short films.

The films selected for ZFF’s New World View: Argentina are:

Café de los Maestros
Directed by M. Kohan
[Argentina, 2008, 90 min.]

Café de los Maestros has been referred to as an Argentine Buena Vista Social Club, and while the comparison is understandable, this loving tribute to the golden age of tango has a powerful element of nostalgia and a return to glory that is all its own. Gustavo Santoalla – two-time Oscar winner for best score – undertook an ambitious and monumental project: to reunite the surviving musical artists from the Golden Age of tango for a grand concert in one of the greatest opera houses on the planet, the Colón Theater. Director Miguel Kohan magnificently captures not just the grandeur of the event but also the living history of these still vital octogenarian singers, composer and musicians, and ultimately the spirit and passion that is the tango of Buenos Aires. It is worth noting the bittersweet reality that, since the concert and filming, four of these maestros have passed on: Oscar Ferrari, Carlos García, José Libertella, and Lágrima Ríos.
Essential viewing not just for tango lovers, but for anyone who loves music.

Directed by Anahí Berneri
[Argentina, 2007, 93 min.]

Encarnción (Ernie) is a fiercely independent woman. A former pin-up model and variety showgirl, now in her fifties and happily single, she still has enough sex appeal and determination to keep her career and herself going despite the passage of time. But when her favorite niece sends her an invitation to her fifteenth birthday party (“I know you won’t let me down, Auntie.”), Ernie puts herself to a harder test. She goes back to the small town she left behind where, on one hand, she will celebrate and help guide the womanhood of a girl who wants to follow in her footsteps, and on the other, will face the cruelty and condemnation of a family that disdains everything she had made of her life. Following her award-winning first feature A Year Without Love, which won among others the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, Anahi Berneri shows herself to be a director deeply sensitive to the reality of her characters and the yearnings of the human soul.

Entrenamiento Elemental para Actores (Elementary Training for Actors)
Directed by Federico León and Martín Rejtman
[Argentina, 2008, 52 min.]

Director Martín Rejtman may be Argentina’s best kept secret. A master of dry, neurotic humor that reaches hysterical proportions, Rejtman, with his first films Rapado and Silvia Prieto, is the progenitor of the New Argentine Cinema. In Entrenamiento elemental para Actores, he teams up with one of the most distinguished theatre directors in Argentina, Federico León, to create a spoof on the world of acting. Fabian Arenillas plays an impossibly demanding acting teacher who treats his 8 to 12 year old students with grim discipline in an effort to save their artistic souls. He offers advice and dictums to his young charges that pass into the absurd revealing the comic nature that is inherent in actor training, as he tells an eleven year old, “Don’t do the first thing that comes to mind. At your age the first thing to appear is always a cliché.” A most particular comedy from a perfect collaboration.

Historias Extraordinarias (Extraordinary Stories)
Directed by Mariano Llinás
[Argentina, 2008, 245 min.]

Mariano Llinas’ Historias Extraordinarias is not just an extraordinary work, but a monumental achievement, and his four-hour film is an exceptional celebration of the art of storytelling. The structure of the film is rooted in the stories of three unconnected voice-over narrated tales that branch out into a labyrinth of plots and subplots where adventures of the most extraordinary kind develop, focusing on three main characters: X, Y, and Z. If their names do not matter, it is because Llinas’ spectacular filmmaking focuses on the power of narrative and oral story telling, and the film’s main character might very well be the voice-over narrator that leads the spectator from a small town in Argentina to Africa and back, passing through, in the course of time and space, the most unusual situations.

Una Novia Errante (A Stray Girlfriend)
Directed by Ana Katz
[Argentina, 2007, 90 min,]

Ana Katz, like no other Latin American director (and actress!), has managed to make beautifully palpable the comic absurdity and desperation of a woman trying to find herself through family and relationships. In her second feature film, Una Novia Errante, Katz directs herself as a young woman whose fiancé (played by real life husband, actor Daniel Hendler) abandons her just as they are about to begin a romantic vacation together, by not getting off the bus. The bus drives off, leaving Ines by the side of the road alone with her luggage, in a state of shock and disbelief. After a series of heated phone calls with her fiancé she resolves that, despite her stomach pains and dizzy spells, she will enjoy her romantic vacation with or without him and so begins her misadventure. Una Novia Errante, a brilliant comedy by a promising young director.

Los Paranoicos (The Paranoias)
Directed by Gabriel Medina
[Argentina, 2008, 101 min.]

Gabriel Medina makes a smash debut with this comedy of neurosis and the mysteries of attraction, that builds to one of the most exciting and memorable final scenes in recent Argentine cinema. Luciano Gauna is a screenwriter forever working on his first script, too afraid to show it to anyone, while he ekes out a living as a children’s entertainer at birthday parties. His only claim to fame is that he is the inspiration for the main character of his friend Manuel’s television series, “The Paranoids”, which has become a major hit in Spain. Manuel returns to Buenos Aires with plans to do an Argentine version of the series and cut Luciano in on the deal, but Luciano is intimidated by and mistrustful of his more successful friend. Instead, he starts falling for Manuel’s girlfriend Sofia who seems to be also attracted to Luciano, precisely for all the things that he thinks are his weaknesses. Daniel Hendler, who received the best actor award at Berlin in 2003 from Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, leads a great cast in this very modern romantic comedy.

Una Semana Solos (A Week alone)
Directed by Celina Murga
[Argentina, 2008, 110 min.]

Martin Scorsese presents the fascinating and unsettling Una Semana Solos by the Argentine rising star Celina Murga. In this extraordinary follow-up to her debut Ana y los otros, Murga impeccably directs an ensemble of children with characteristic subtlety and detached camerawork. A group of upper middle class children, ages 7 to 14, are left at home for a week in a private gated community, in the care of their young nanny. Maria, the eldest, follows her cousins as they break into the houses of neighbours out of sheer boredom. But when Fernando, the nanny’s younger working class brother, comes to visit, Maria must decide between family and class allegiances and doing the right thing. Murga’s unsettling portrait of privilege and the sense of impunity which accompanies it, offers a timely exploration of contemporary issues of race and class, played out in the increasingly familiar universe of gated communities, a growing phenomenon not just in Argentina, but in much of Latin America.

About the Zurich Film Festival
The 5th Zurich Film Festival will take place at the cinemas Corso and Arthouse Le Paris from September 24 until October 4, 2009. A public festival for those who have already seen it all. The Zurich Film Festival will screen more than 50 Swiss and international film premieres in the International Feature Film Competition, the International Documentary Film Competition, the German-Speaking Competition and the Out of Competition series.

The Zurich Film Festival is generously supported by its main sponsors: Crédit Suisse,, L’Oréal Paris, Kuoni and Audi.

ZFF is organized by Spoundation Motion Picture GmbH, based in Zurich, in cooperation with local institutions and sponsors. The Zurich Film Festival cooperates with numerous distributors and producers from Switzerland and abroad. The idea to found a festival in Zurich came from Karl Spoerri. Today, the festival directors are Karl Spoerri (creative director) and Nadja Schildknecht (public relations, marketing and sponsoring).

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