[OP - 2005 / From Arg Journal]
BOLIVIA (Argentina-Ned / 2001)
Argentinas financial collapse of the late-90s, which resulted in vast socio-economic instabilities, has been broached since then in one form or another in numerous documentaries and films. Filmmaker Adrin Caetano (Pizza, Beer & Smokes ), one of the numerous talented young filmmakers of the Argentinian New Wave, has attempted to expose that burgeoning underbelly of corruption and hatred in his excellent second feature, Bolivia. The films rather ironic title, however, also hints towards the fact that even in dire circumstances, Argentina was more or less still considered the "land of opportunity" for the denizens of its neighboring countries whove been in worst shape all along. Caetano, himself a Uruguayan immigrant, perhaps knows the account quite well. Like recent Argentinian films such as Pablo Traperos Crane World (1999) and Diego Lermans Suddenly (2002), Bolivia is shot in a gritty, neo-realistic fashion, thus enabling the aesthetic to help establish the overall tone of the film, which also takes a no-nonsense approach towards its simple yet powerful narrative. It concerns an illegal Bolivian immigrant, Freddy (Freddy Flores), whos come to Argentina in order to support his family back home. He lands a job as a cook in a small restaurant in Buenos Aires. Naturally, Freddy is unwelcomed for various reasons, most importantly being that hes taking an opportunity away from a local in that flailing economy. Freddys employer (Enrique Liporace) isnt paying him much, but hes certainly not in a position to negotiate. Caetanos protagonist simply wants to live and work in peace, but the rowdy patrons of the restaurant continue to make life difficult for him and a fellow waitress (Rosa Snchez) he's fallen for, which ultimately results in violence. Winner of a plethora of awards from major festivals like Cannes and Rotterdam, this 75-minute-film approaches its subject with the sort of humility thats rarely seen nowadays. And while doing so, it proves once again that important films can be made on a modest level.
*BOLIVIA premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week).
*Available on U.S. DVD from New Yorker Video.
*"Watched the short but effective Bolivia today as part of my Latin American Cinema course. I liked how despite the tones of being "realistic" it didn't utilize a bunch of amateurish camera work and piss poor lighting. There is a way to be refined but unpolished and this film accomplished that. The limited running time also served it well because the film didn't feel stretched, and everything had its reason. The subject is of course relevant in this country with the substitution being Mexicans for Bolivians, however the debate remains the same. A cinema of desperation that somehow managed to not be moralizing in its tone" (wpqx, 9/20/07).