Argentine Movies: Five of the Best

By now most of us have probably seen El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) – the 2009 release, directed by Juan José Campanella, that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards. It’s undoubtedly a great film. But if it piqued your curiosity about Argentine cinema and you want to see more, what is there? Pour yourself a mate and settle down to one of the following fab five:

1. Un Novio para Mi Mujer (A Boyfriend for My Wife)

A rare Argentine comedy, this 2008 release was the biggest hit of the year domestically. The plot is basically this: a man (Tenso) is unhappily married; his wife, Tana, is perhaps best described as ‘a whiny bitch.’ She complains about everything: the newspaper headlines; the government; her friends; the weather, and whatever else crosses her path.

Tenso has had enough, but he’s unable to summon the resolve to tell Tana that he wants to separate, so he hatches a plan to end it by hiring another man to seduce her and then using that as an excuse to divorce her. Tana falls for the seducer, but unexpectedly this makes her a much nicer person – she starts to appreciate life and stops complaining – and Tenso realizes that he’s jealous of the seducer and that he loves her after all.

If you’re familiar with the romcom genre then Un Novio para Mi Mujer will offer you no surprises, but it’s interesting to see how a pretty familiar plot translates into an Argentine setting. It’s good fun and well worth a couple of hours of your time.

2. No Sos Vos, Soy Yo (It’s Not You, It’s Me)

‘It’s not you, it’s me’ is of course the classic breakup line that we’re all familiar with. In this amiable romcom the line comes from Maria, the newlywed wife of Javier. At Maria’s behest the couple have decided to emigrate to the United States, but Maria goes a couple of weeks before Javier, then calls him and tells him she doesn’t want him to join her anymore as she’s met someone else! Javier is devastated and struggles to adjust to his new life as a bachelor.

If you’ve seen the Jennifer Aniston – Ben Stiller vehicle ‘Along Came Polly’ then the plot of this movie will be pretty familiar: faithful/straight/loser guy gets dumped; tries to get back into the dating scene; fails miserably; finally meets ditzy new woman who just might change his life. A happy ending, of course, ensues.

Like most Argentine movies, No Sos Vos, Soy Yo will seem slow and drawn out to those of us more used to pacier Hollywood fare. It’s also more realistic however, and all in all it’s a thoroughly enjoyable date movie. The only caveat is that some of the best jokes require a good understanding of Argentinean Spanish, so for best results, watch it with an Argentine who can explain them to you.

3. Historias Minimas (Intimate Stories)

When people describe movies as ‘heartwarming’ I normally run for the hills, but Historias Minimas (2002) is a heartwarming movie that I really liked. It’s essentially a road movie about three people travelling through Patagonia. They’re all travelling alone and none of them are known to the others, but they’re all heading to the same destination: the little town of San Julian.

The youngest character is María, a poor mother who works in a gas station. She’s travelling because her best friend has told her that she’s a finalist for the grand prize of a local San Julian television game show. Next oldest is Roberto. He’s a middle-aged salesman who’s trying to win the affections of a young widow who lives in San Julian. He’s taking a cake in the shape of a football for her son’s birthday…but is the birthday boy actually a girl? The oldest character is Don Justo Benedictis, an elderly man with failing eyesight in the twilight of his life. He’s hitchhiking to San Julian to look for his beloved lost dog Badface who has apparently been spotted near the town.

This is a lovely film about remorse, yearnings and illusions. It has some great, highly realistic and unaffected performances from the (mostly non-professional) cast. It’s unpretentious, affecting, and yes, heartwarming.

4. Kamchatka

The 2002 film Kamchatka is, according to many, one of the best films yet made about the 1970s military junta in Argentina.

Set in 1976, it’s about a lawyer who specializes in working for people who have been accused of political crimes. When his partner gets arrested and disappears he knows that it’s only a matter of time before the military ‘disappears’ him too, so he decides to take his family underground in order to escape.

It’s hard for any of us gringos to understand the impact that the junta had, and continues to have, on the Argentine psyche, so this film should be required watching. The acting is great and overall it’s a very touching experience (I shed a tear or two).

What about the title? Kamchatka is a peninsula in the far east of Russia. In the movie the father and his son play a board game called TEG where the idea is to control all 50 territories on a map of the world. The son controls nearly all of the countries but his father holds him off for hours while controlling only the obscure Kamchatka, thereby showing his son that successful resistance against overwhelming odds is possible.

The DVD has a very helpful Extras section that you should watch first if you don’t know much about the situation in Argentina during the 1970s, as the movie itself takes absolutely no steps to explain it.

5. Cama Adentro (Live-In Maid)

From the military junta to economic crises – Argentina cinema covers all your important historical and cultural knowledge! This 2004 release is set in late 2001 and tells the story of two women in late middle age. Beba is an ageing beauty, a slim blonde (European-looking) from the upper class. The other main character is Dora. Dora has been Beba’s live-in maid for 30 years and is now her only companion, despite their wildly divergent social positions.

As the film begins we learn that Dora hasn’t been paid by Beba in 7 months. It’s clear that, due to the economic crisis, Beba can no longer afford to pay Dora, and so Dora resigns. From this point the movie tracks the paths of the two women, their ongoing relationship, and the different ways in which they attempt to deal with the difficult times.

One of the main themes of the movie centers on the arresting truth that despite their supposed ‘inferiority,’ it’s actually lower-class people who are far better equipped to survive the vicissitudes of life. Dora is tough, resilient, and able to change and adapt, while Beba is nearly helpless in the face of her new and much harsher reality.

Cama Adentro is a slow, moving, highly nuanced art house gem. It was a favorite at the Sundance film festival in 2005. You should watch it!


19 Responses to “Argentine Movies: Five of the Best”

  1. mduchamp says:

    Check out 9 Reinas (Nine queens) as well…somehow a well done interpretation of the argentine idiosyncrasy.

  2. Vale Golden says:

    9 reinas is excellent!!! you need to watch it.
    you’ll see that is much better than some of the movies you wrote in this list.
    is a MUST of Argentinian films, because it changes the way of making films here.
    Saludos!

  3. Oh yay, I love watching new movies!

  4. Matt says:

    It’s impossible to give a list of top Argentine movies without including Esperando la Carroza! It’s a classic from the 1980′s that many portenos can recite word for word!

  5. This is a great list and something I’ve been interested in, since I am making Argentina my home for a few months. Now off to download movies – legally of course :-)

  6. Mariel says:

    Some other good movies are: 9 reinas, Carancho, Esperando la Carroza (comedy), La Historia Oficial (about las abuelas de plaza de mayo), and La Patagonia Rebelde (historic movie).

  7. daniel says:

    the official story? el aura?

  8. WalkBA says:

    I would definitely recommend “El hijo de la novia”. This one was also nominated to the Academy Award for best foreign film, but didn’t win.

  9. Majo says:

    It needs a few more tittles! el hijo de la novia, 9 reinas, esperando la carroza… i would put any of this before i put any of the romantic comedies

  10. Ferchu says:

    I URGE everyone to see “El Hombre de al Lado” (The Man Next Door). It’s an excellent black comedy filmed in The Curutchet House in La Plata, south of Buenos Aires—the only residence designed by Le Corbusier in the Americas. The film has won several awards including one for best cinematography at Sundance festival 2010. Don’t miss it!

  11. Pablo says:

    I wrote a couple of lists like this one for my website.

    If you are interested in Argentine Cinema, take a look these lists:

    TOP 10 MOVIES FROM ARGENTINA (according to IMDb popularity): http://www.iberoamericanmovies.com/argentina/top-10-movies-from-argentina/

    MOVIES FROM ARGENTINA – NEW YORK TIMES SELECTION: http://www.iberoamericanmovies.com/argentina/argentine-movies/movies-from-argentina-new-york-times-selection/

    I hope you enjoy them.

    By the way, I like your website.

  12. Mario says:

    Everybody is forgetting Valentin one of the best Arg movies in years!!!

  13. Nestor says:

    El Secreto de sus Ojos tiene que estar en esta lista para mi es la mejor película argentina.

  14. Perla says:

    Thank you for maintaining this list
    I ‘ve been in USA for 31 years and love to see Argentine movies.
    Muy talentosos los productores, directores y actores tambien.
    Muchisimas gracias…..
    Perla

  15. Robin says:

    I am an American with no connections to Argentina but recently stumbled upon “Live In Maid” at the library…JUST LOVED IT
    and now I want more. Thanks for this list! I will try some of the others!

  16. Surajit sanyal says:

    Hola!!
    Soy de la India y soy fanatico de las peliculas argentinas. Y según mi opinión la película ” Un cuento chino” debe ser vista . y hay más, tales como, Iluminados por el fuego, Nueves reinas, Un novio para mi mujer, No sos vos soy yo.
    Gracias

  17. Dorisa says:

    Vivo en California y me facina las peliculas Argentinas, que talento. Una pena que muchas peliuclas no las pasen en los cines aca en CA. Sos Los Mejores!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Noe says:

    There is a new movie called “Leones”. The writter/director is a very young talented argentine called Jazmin Lopez. Not the “commercial” type, but it’s just great. Amazing photography, great story, unexpected end.

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