Monday, February 28, 2011

Argentine Oscar glory

After last night's Academy Awards it is a good moment to remember the 2010 ceremony when Argentina became the first Latin American country to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the second time, when El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes), walked off with the gong.

Written and directed by Argentine director Juan José Campanella and based on a novel by Eduardo Sacheri, the film stars Ricardo Darín, a frequent collaborator of Campanella’s and one of the country’s biggest stars.

Darín plays former Federal Justice Agent Benjamin Espósito, who in 1999 sets out to write a novel about a savage and unsolved rape and murder case he worked on back in 1974.

The film flashes effortlessly backwards and forwards between the nineties and the seventies as the story unfolds, inviting the viewer to join Espósito, who inspired by the writing of his novel, re-examines the facts in a quest for the truth.

Intrigue and suspense are balanced throughout by the subtle prospect of romance as Espósito is reunited with his ex boss, Judge Irene Menéndez-Hastings, with whom he was always secretly in love. There is even room for a little comedy back in the seventies sequences where his alcoholic partner Pablo Sandoval, portrayed by Guillermo Francella, entertains with some amusing one liners.

But the film is ultimately a serious one.

After seeing the ‘look in the eyes’ of a childhood friend of the victim, Espósito becomes convinced that he’s got his man, but he's constantly blocked from capturing and punishing him by corrupt colleagues who, rather than punish the true perpetrator, prefer to beat a confession out of two innocent bystanders. The injustice is toe-crawlingly irritating, but is a fine example of the crooked Justice System and excessive violence of 1970s Argentina.

In fact the entire film is one that stirs the emotions with some outstanding performances all round in what is an extremely well directed effort from Campanella, who returned to Argentina to make the movie after a spell directing episodes of Lost and House in the U.S. His 1970s sequences in particular, which include an electrifying aerial shot during a scene at Racing Club football stadium on match day, really do the trick.

No Argentine film made this year's nomination list but El Secreto de sus Ojos was a crowning moment for what is a vibrant national film industry here and the Oscar was a proud moment for everyone involved. If you still haven't seen the film then it is highly recommended that you do so.


1 comment:

  1. History comes to haunt those that have perpetrated serious crimes, it seems. That said, how many first class films or novels have emerged from Switzerland?