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SEATTLE — A haunting allegory about the plight of indigenous peoples in Argentina, Daniela Seggiaro‘s Nosilatiaj.Beauty finds (literally) earth-shaking significance in an indignity most of its characters view as mild, even benevolent. Pairing an austere aesthetic with an accessible domestic storyline, it’s well suited for art houses.
Set in the home of a criollo family in a small Argentine village, the story is narrated by their adolescent servant Yola — part of the native group known as Wichi, living away from home out of economic necessity. The family’s daughter Antonella, around the same age, is about to celebrate her quinceañera, and Anto’s mother has been preoccupied with party planning for days. The birthday girl is as awkward as Yola is composed; particularly concerned with her unruly hair, Anto acts as if Yola (owner of long, silky black tresses) has the same concerns. Eventually, a group trip to the beauty shop leads to an ambush haircut, and Yola, who has never trimmed her hair, becomes physically ill.
The film is sympathetic to the family’s matriarch, a pious Catholic with a large brood to care for and an unreliable husband; their household realities are drawn with quiet efficiency. But the picture’s heart is elsewhere — in the woods, where (so long as the power saws we hear in the background keep their distance) Yola’s people live quiet lives. Seggiaro recalls Terrence Malick in her idealization of this place: Throughout the film, she cuts from petty household hubbub to a close-up of tree bark or rustling grass, over which Yola quietly speaks (in her native language) of childhood memories.
The effect is simple but transporting, particularly powerful thanks to its thoroughly unpretentious delivery. As Yola adjusts to the removal of one more link to her community, the film needs little more than a string of remembered words and a carefully chosen image to suggest an entire culture at risk of losing its foothold in the world.
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, New Directors Competition
Production Company: Vista Sur Films
Cast: Ximena Banús, Rosmeri Segundo, Victor Hugo Carrizo, Camila Romagnolo, Sasa Sharet Isabel Mendoza, Tiluk Sebastian Mendoza
Director-Screenwriter: Daniela Seggiaro
Producer: Alvaro Urtizberea
Director of photography: Willi Behnisch
Production designer: Julia Gargiulli
Music: Fernando Subelza
Editors: Ana Poliak, Martin Mainoli, Daniela Seggiaro
No rating, 81 minutes
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