Martina Gusman in “Elefante Blanco” [2012 Argentina]

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Argentinian Pablo Trapero, among the more talented young directors working in Latin America today, is renowned for his originality, cinematic eye, and uncompromising film making. From what I’ve seen so far, his screenplay and depictions are gritty, his topics  typically political and social, often critiquing the establishment and law enforcement agencies. I also couldn’t help noticing influences from early Italian neorealists like Vittorio de Sica and Roberto Rossellini. But his films are nevertheless more sentimental in a very Latin American manner.

I’ll start with his latest film, “Elefante Blanco” [Eng. Title: White Elephant], set amidst the slums of present day Buenos Aires, giving us a vivid snapshot of its persistent gang culture, drugs, and the establishment’s antipathy towards its dwellers. This may not be Trapero’s finest film – that I’ll post at a later date – but it is certainly well made, and among the better Argentinian films I have seen this year. Recommended Viewing.

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Ailing priest Julián (Ricardo Darín) who works in the slum and oversees a reconstruction project invites Belgian friend and fellow-priest Nicolás (Jérémie Renier) to join him, and hopefully also become his replacement. Through his stay, an altogether human Nicolás, ridden with guilt from his past, learns the hard way a lesson in drawing the line between compassion and ‘interference’. The white elephant – the construction project that they’re trying to complete is the background against which events unfold…



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