Toronto Tangoing with Buenos Aires in Third City-to-City

The 2011 edition of TIFF's urban cinema sidebar catches the Argentine New Wave.

TORONTO – If there were any doubts that Argentina is in the midst of a creative and commercial cinema boom, the 2010 Foreign Language Oscar Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes erased any doubt. And Campanella is only the most successful of an entire generation of younger Argentine directors who have emerged, purged by the country’s economic collapse in the 1990s, with a new cinematic language that has found critical praise worldwide. So it’s no surprise the Toronto International Film Festival picked the Buenos Aires for the third edition of its City-to-City spotlight – a special sidebar focusing on the film scene, and tradition, of a specific urban center.

After the hot-button controversy of its inaugural year when the focus on films from Tel Aviv sparked controversy and protest, Toronto is on safer ground in 2011 with the Argentine capital.

“Argentina in general and Buenos Aires in particular is at a real social-economic crossroads and that really has fed into its cinema,” says City-to-City programmer Kate Lawrie Van De Ven, who attributes the new boom in part from a combination of low production costs and a diverse, particularly determined creative community. “No one knows how they get their movies made. But somehow they do.”

The City-to-City selection is a mix of the brand new and the classic. Films in the first category include the world premieres of Alison Murray’s Caprichosos de San Telmo and Nicolas Prividera’s Fatherland and features Vaquero by Juan Minujin, Roman CardenasThe Stones and Carlos Sorin’s The Cat Vanishes, all three of which have their international bow at TIFF. In the Buenos Aires classics category there are screenings of Pablo Trapero’s debut, Crane World, considered a seminal work of the Argentine New Wave and the rediscovered 1969 science fiction film Invasion from director Hugo Santiago, described by TIFF programmer Cameron Bailey as an “Argentine Alphaville.”

The Argentine film boom itself is the subject, or subtext, of two City-to-City titles: Minujin’s Vaquero and Tamac Garteguy’s genre satire Pompeya.

And this being South America, politics is never far behind. In The Student, director Santiago Mitre uses student politics to illustrate a general disillusionment with city and national government. Prividera’s film essay Fatherland centers on Buenos Aires Recoleta Cemetery, where many of Argentine’s most pivotal political figures – left and right – are buried, as a way of illustrating the country’s fractured political legacy.

“This is just a sampling of course of what’s coming out of Buenos Aires,” said Van De Ven. “But we hope it will give Toronto audiences a sense of the new voices and how they fit into the city and the country’s long cinema tradition.”