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I took a long break between posts about the AFI Latin American Film Festival to go to, well, Latin America. Two weeks eating steak in Argentina make me an expert now, right?

Carancho, Argentina, dir: Pablo Trapero

Here’s a hint to other travelers: don’t watch a movie about how dangerous your destination is just days before leaving. Carancho is set on Argentina’s dangerous roads and made me worried to jump in a cab while I was there.

The plot revolves around a dirty lawyer who chases ambulances in Buenos Aires, signing victims to represent, then pocketing most of the insurance settlements. Or sometimes he skips the chasing and just stages the accidents himself. The life is weighing on him, but his attempts to exit the business are stymied by his criminally-connected boss. Meanwhile, he begins a relationship with a paramedic.

The film is good, but uneven. The lawyer’s plight is more interesting than the paramedic’s and it’s one of those movies that is better thematically than narratively. In other words, it’s more interesting thinking about it later than sitting through it. The lawyer is fascinating and he is more than the simple “bad guy looking to for a way out” stock character. I loved the ending, especially the very, very end, which is a bit deus ex machina but perfect.

Argentina nominated Carancho for the Foreign Language Oscar. It is coming off a win in the category last year with The Secret in Their Eyes and the two films share star Ricardo Darín, so it’s sure to get some attention. I doubt it will grab a nomination, however. Scott Cooper, who directed Crazy Heart, is said to be in line to direct an American remake.

Bad Day to Go Fishing (Mal día para pescar), Uruguay, dir: Álvarao Brechner

This is sort of like the South American The Wrestler. A washed up East German professional wrestler travels around dinky South American towns challenging locals. His manager sets up the bouts and fixes the outcomes while convincing his frustrated star to stick to it and not return home. In one town, a capable opponent refuses to be bought and the prize money the challenger stands to win would bankrupt the traveling star.

This one’s a bit of a bore. I wouldn’t say it fully drags, but the lack of progress in the middle wore on me. Part of that may have been that I thought I knew where the plot was heading. Happily I was wrong and the ending is terrific. All in all a decent film.


And that brings to an end our coverage of the AFI Latin American Film Festival. Also see Part 1 and Part 2. I had a nice time over those few weeks and it was a good way to get ready for my trip (and tune up my Spanish). AFI does some interesting programs throughout the year and hopefully I’ll be able to take some in.

November 2010