Argentina has a vibrant and active film industry, complete with its very own A-List, from tip-top directors like Pablo Trapero to larger-than-life actors like Ricardo Darín. Weirdly, it’s not too well-known in the English-speaking world. So, if you’re one of the many people who don’t know much about Argentine cinema, you’re in for a treat: and trust me, there’s a lot more where these came from. In no particular order…
1. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
This crime/romance drama tells the story of an unsolved murder from the early 70s, a time of extreme political repression in Argentina, that still haunts a retired public prosecutor and his former boss 25 years later. Through jumps from the past to the present day, we’re shown an incredible tale that blends drama with the crime, mystery, thriller, and romance genres. The deserved winner of the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, it was adapted into a Hollywood remake in 2015 that you should absolutely avoid. You can’t beat the original!
2. The Clan (2015)
A smash-hit in Argentina, where it sold more tickets in 2015 than any other film, this movie tells the true story of the Puccio family. Seemingly normal and middle-class, they of course have a secret: they sort of like to kidnap people for ransom. This thrilling true-crime story is brought to life expertly by a team of star (in Argentina!) actors and one of the country’s best directors. If you like blockbusters, there’s no better way to get acquainted with Argentine cinema than with its biggest-ever.
3. Truman (2015)
In this Spanish-Argentine co-production, a terminally-ill Argentine man living in Spain receives a surprise visit from his best friend, all the way from Canada. Together, they set off on a quest to find a new home for Truman, who is not the American president, but the dying man’s elderly dog. It’s a fantastic reflection on friendship, masculinity, and unconditional love, taking viewers on an emotional rollercoaster: often hilarious, sometimes infuriating, at times tear jerking. To top it off, the chemistry between the two stars is some of the best you will ever see on-screen. It’s no surprise that the film swept the Goya (Spanish Oscar) awards in 2016, winning Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor.
4. The Distinguished Citizen (2016)
A Nobel-prize winning author who became famous writing stories set in his small, backwoods hometown is invited to return there for the first time in 40 years. On a whim, he decides it’s finally time to go back, and the result is an often surreal comedy-drama where half the town is delighted to finally receive their most famous son, while the other half is delighted to finally have the chance to confront him about the way they’ve been depicted in his books. An excellent film with a very unique plot.
5. Nine Queens (2000)
One of the best heist films ever made, Nine Queens is an exciting, non-stop rush of twists and turns that easily holds the attention of any viewer from start to finish. Two small-time yet ingenious conmen happen upon each other by chance and end up joining forces for the biggest heist of their lives, with the stakes getting higher every minute. The film was an unexpected international smash-hit, inspiring remakes in both Hollywood and Bollywood as well as catapulting Darín to stardom.
6. Intimate Stories (2002)
With a cast made up almost entirely of locals with no prior acting experience, this anthology film follows three different people on their own respective, interlinked voyages across the picturesque Patagonian desert of Argentina. They aren’t special people and their quests aren’t world changing, yet their journies mean the world to each of them. Its uniquely authentic, realist feel, breathtaking visuals, loveable characters, and simple yet compelling storylines all come together to render it an instant classic.
7. The Man Next Door (2010)
A rich and successful architect living in a world-famous mansion has his life upended when a lower-class used car salesman makes a window in a dividing wall that happens to overlook his spacious yard. Seen through the eyes of a rich man during his one-sided clash with someone he’d otherwise never interact with, this film examines class conflict in a unique way, contrasting the loveable-yet-rough working-class stereotype with that of the superficial and emotionally barren bourgeois.
8. Wild Tales (2014)
A blockbuster anthology featuring many of Argentina’s most important actors, this movie is made up of six different, irreverent, hilarious, over-the-top, yet strangely satisfying stories that all share one uniting theme: our latent desire to just let it all go and lose control. It includes a battle to the death between a hillbilly and a businessman on a deserted highway, a traditional Jewish wedding gone horribly wrong, and a man who does what we all dream of when dealing with endless bureaucratic back-and-forths. What’s not to like? Nothing, apparently, as it sold the most tickets of any film in Argentina in 2014.
9. Chinese Take-Away (2011)
The Spanish name for this film translates to ‘A Chinese Story’, a common phrase in Argentina that means ‘telling tall tales’, or, more simply, ‘bullshit’. This double meaning is the perfect description for this movie, where a man leaves China to seek a new life in Argentina after a cow quite literally falls from the sky, killing his bride-to-be. Unfortunately for him, the first person he runs into is the owner of a small hardware store who is absolutely set in his simple routine, with seemingly no interest in going out of his way to help out a man he can’t even communicate with. Of course, he does it anyway. A hilarious and heartwarming film about two unlikely friends brought together after two one in a billion chances.
10. How Most Things Work (2015)
When her father dies unexpectedly, a toll-booth operator living in a remote, barely populated region decides to finally search for her mother who left the family and moved to Italy when she was a child. To raise money for the trip, she takes a job as a travelling saleswoman, selling a book that claims to answer ‘most of life’s questions’. A slow-paced, relaxing and oddly charming affair that always keeps the viewer guessing, this drama offers a unique take on the road movie genre.
That’s all — for now. I hope you enjoy your introduction to a new world of cinema!
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, consider following me on social media:
Follow George Ganitis on Twitter