Carri - one of the most important figures in new Argentinian cinema

I Won’t Go Back Home, dir. Albertina Carri
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Lucrecia Martel, Milagros Mumenthaler, Silvina Schnicer, Lola Arias … Argentinian cinema today has no shortage of bold directors. Women in Argentinian cinema gained a strong position in the 1980s, largely due to the success of the film Camila (1984) by María Luisa Bemberg, who, in 1984, broke audience records and was nominated for an Oscar. Lucrecia Martel explains that “it was well known for several reasons: first, the dictatorship in the country was coming to an end, and people were crowding into cinemas in mass numbers; second, the film was about love between a woman and a priest, which caused a sensation in Catholic Argentina. The fact that it was made by a woman only heightened interest in it, emboldened other women and paved the way to the previously very male profession of director. These days, the question of whether it’s difficult to be a female director is no longer asked. I hear it everywhere, but not in Argentina.”

With the groundwork already laid, Albertina Carri made her debut at the beginning of the new millennium; she was barely 24 years of age when she made her first feature film, No quiero volver a casa (2000), one of the most important titles in the emerging trend of new Argentinian cinema. This peculiar (anti-) detective story took the spirit of Fassbinder’s early films, like Love Is Colder Than Death and I Only Want You to Love Me, and set it the reality of Argentina at the time—it had the same sort of cold observation, Brechtian estrangement and an ambiguous sense of humor. But what starts to set Carri—a truly independent artist who is a director, screenwriter and producer—apart is the way she plays with various film types and genres. Visible already in her debut, her films are always filled with ambiguous content and bursting with her inventiveness.

This was particularly clear in her second full-length film, The Blonds (2003), in which she took on the subject of settling accounts with the military dictatorship (1976–1983), which was important for new Argentinian cinema, and the frightening phenomenon of los desaparecidos, the mysterious disappearance of individuals deemed inconvenient for the regime. She did this, however, in a very personal way, combining fiction with a documentary story about her own past: The dictatorial government took away Carri’s parents, too, when she was only four years old. Instead of slipping into sentimentality, she shows a generation forced to mourn those with whom they were unable to form a bond. Edginess and looking at reality from an unexpected point of view are very characteristic of Carri’s work.

In addition to documentary, she has also flirted with animation: in the short Aurora (2001) and the two-time FIPRESCI award winner Anger (2008), where the drawings of a mute girl in the Argentinian provinces come to life and fill the entire screen, showing us that which cannot be expressed in words. The film was made on the basis of her memories from the period when, after the “disappearance” of her parents, the young Carri lived with her grandparents in the provinces. Most often, however, she makes feature films that explore various genres. It may be a criminal story or a family drama, as in Geminis (2005), in which she takes on the greatest of all family taboos: incest. At the same time, she examines the values that have nurtured the Argentinian bourgeoisie, values that bring lonely, unhappy individuals into the world, who are ready, in order to give a semblance of happiness, to pretend everything is just fine when it isn’t. In Geminis, Carri—taking quite a risk—is inebriated with the budding passion between siblings, showing that, in a mendacious world, this may be the only natural and pure thing that they have experienced.

A constant feature of Carri’s work is the affirmation of sexuality in various forms that are often considered taboo or stigmatized by society (in Anger it was a fiery extramarital affair). Fascinated by the subject of carnality, she’s not afraid to use porn aesthetics, like in her short stop-motion animation Barbie Can Also Be Sad (2002), in which she added to Mattel dolls the body parts they were missing. In her latest work, The Daughters of Fire (2018), she tells the story of several girls who set off for the south of Argentina in search of freedom and adventure, as well as to make polyamorous lesbian porn. This is once again a very personal story, because the director also—a bit like the protagonist in her film, who is fighting for her own utopia—does everything in her own way: together with her wife, Argentinian journalist and activist Marta Dillon, they founded Torta (meaning “lesbian” in Argentinian slang), which produces documentaries defending women’s rights; she is also the director of the Asterisco festival of LGBTIQ cinema in Buenos Aires. And she is fearless in this, proving in both her films and her activism that, although utopias (public and private) have to collide with a hostile reality, the winners of these skirmishes may be unexpected.

Adam Kruk

1 Adam Kruk, "Rozmowa z Lucrecią Martel", Filmweb Magazyn, 27 July 2017: https://www.filmweb.pl/fwm/article/Rozmowa+z+Lucreci%C4%85+Martel-124233

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