Argentinian Cinema 2013 #5: Habi, la extranjera (2013)

(Argentina, Brazil 2013 92m) Village Recoleta

María Carlota Fernandes Bruno, Matías Mosteirín, Mauricio Andrade Ramos, Walter Salles, Hugo Sigman, Lita Stantic, Paula Zyngierman d/w María Florencia Álvarez c Julián Apezteguia ed Eliane Katz s Santiago Pedroncini

a Martina Juncadella, Martin Slipak, Lucía Alfonsín, Maria Luísa Mendoça, Diego Velázquez, Paloma Alvarez

Continuing with the films that I saw at Bafici, this time this is an argentinian film that played at the Argentinian Competition.

There’s a joy in a film festival, specially in the recent times, when there’s an actual 35mm copy playing in the screen, and in the latest installment of the BAFICI this was a rare ocassion, even with the films in competition, very little of them actually were filmed and then released/shown in 35mm filmstock, so along comes this Brazil/Argentina co-production that plays in 35mm for its press screening, and beyond what is actually going on in the film, I guess there was no other way this film could be seen. It’s something special, it doesn’t actually make the film any better or special in a visual sense, but there’s a beauty of the dresses and the faces that are framed inside the clothes worn by the characters that is really really special when seen on the big screen and with the sound of the projector, and the grain present in certain dark sequences of the movie. Argentina has been increasingly adopting digital filmmaking, and of course, it’s the smartest choice right now, generation after generation of great cinema of Argentina, there’s a need for a new generation of digital filmmaking, but there’s still a place for analog filmmakers who want to strive on making their films the old fashioned way, and this may be the perfect film to do that.

So, onto the plot of the film. Here we have a young woman visiting Buenos Aires, she is here to sell and receive some money from objects that she sells for her mother, but on one of her trips she finds herself at a mosque, where a muslim ritual is taking place, she finds herself very interested so she decides to stay a day longer in Buenos Aires to really understand what she saw. She is quiet and through her eyes and small tidbits of information that she manages to throw out, we discover that her mind and soul is finding something, a way to find herself, loosing her own being into the world of muslim culture, she even takes the clothes and the name of a lost child of the muslim community in Argentina, hence the name Habi of the title, that is the one she takes for herself. She starts to create an image of herself to those around her, specially those who are from muslim extractions, making them think that she actually comes from a country in middle east, and that she has been a muslim all her life, she takes lessons to read the Coran with other women of the community, that’s the time when the film (shown and made on film) really comes alive, with the colours and patterns of the clothes they wear, and at the same time the emotions they seem to supress or express in the small frames that the dogmatic clothes have for the faces.

The movie creates an ambience, and even if it isn’t particularly gorgeous to look at (there’s not any flamboyance or show-off in the cinematography) except for how well constructed the art direction is, but the main selling point is how well constructed is the psyche and the actions that Habi makes in the context of her own new lifestyle, and then in relation with her mother, her neighbours at the inn she is staying at, and particularly in regards to a certain muslim man that she fancies. There’s the core of the film and the main plot elements that will descend into its climax and final resolution… but I’m afraid that it’s too little, too late, the plot is suddenly put forward thanks to certain advancements done by our protagonist towards her love or liking of this boy, and when it all goes down, it’s emotional, but it’s been in the middle of so many other stories and characters that it feels isolated and just one of them all, and I’m guessing (since it makes for the biggest decission of the film) that this storyline is much more important than the one of the neighbour, but it’s given almost the same importance and time, so I’m guessing that here we have to request Focus and it would’ve been not just a good movie, but a great one.

8/10

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