Sitting around in the cinema eating popcorn all day might sound like an idle way of passing the time but the Buenos Aires Film Festival has been nothing if not educational. Here are five things I’ve learned at BAFICI 2014.
1. Treat them mean to keep them keen is a false motto.
A small army of workers and volunteers has ensured that BAFICI runs smoothly without any sign of the organizational confusion that I have heard some people claim to be the common rule in Argentina. The friendly and helpful smiles evaporate the fug of grouchy weariness which accompanies me to the cinema most mornings thanks to the rumbling snores of my hotel neighbor. The cinemas are also excellent with comfortable seats and plenty of space to lie back and stretch out. It’s like being at the dentist only without the psychopath drilling holes in your gums.
2. There’s nothing like a bit of self-deprecation in the Argentinean film industry.
The most laughs I’ve heard came during the press and industry screening of Julian Montero Ciancio’s documentary Mientras Estoy Cantando (While I Am Singing). The film centers on Buenos Aires hairdresser and Errol Flynn lookalike (according to one of his customers) Juan María Pampín, who in his mid-40s harbors dreams of rock stardom, composing his own music and serenading the elderly señoras who frequent his salon. His philosophy, such as relating the four stages of life to looking for something which has been in your hands all along had the auditorium in stitches. The loudest moment of all was when one of Juan’s rare quiet moments ended with the following observation: “Have you ever noticed how all Argentinean films are filled with long silences? Why is that?”
Another exquisitely-timed comic pause and then the killer line: “Argentinean cinema is shit,” as all around me exploded in delighted cackling.
3. The show must, and will, go on.
The first few days of BAFICI were marked by overcast skies and a sticky heat more commonly found in the depths of the Amazon. This ended dramatically with a monstrous electrical storm just as cinema-goers were pouring out of the day’s final showing. An impromptu and really rather pleasant, erm, mass debate on the festival’s main highlights ensued as the multitudes waited under the cinema awning for the thunder and lightning to subside. There was further disruption a couple of days later with a national strike bringing public transport to a halt. Did this deter festival crowds? Hell, no. If anything it was even livelier as everyone forgot about rushing to get the bus and instead went to the French Embassy’s cocktail party. More power to the people, I say.
4. Wrestling with your conscience is a fact of life.
It’s the classic festival conundrum. With such an extensive program, how exactly are you supposed to decide what to watch? It is perfectly possible that there will be up to five films showing at any one time which interest you. This can result in some tricky dilemmas as your moral compass lurches between your intellectual duty to watch the documentary on the incorporation of Marxist ideologies into Bolivian farming communities and the shame of actually wanting to go and see FrankenHooker. Fortunately, I have devised the solution to such problems: go and watch the titillating exploitation gore-fest and then lie about it. Sorted.
5. I want to slap Pharell.
It might be popular with everyone from six-year olds to art-house fashion zombies but that doesn’t mean that Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ isn’t capable of provoking violent urges. Inside the Recoleta Cultural Center that serves as the BAFICI headquarters, festival organizers have decided to play the song’s video in its full 24-hour glory. Every single day. Having chosen a space just outside the entrance to the press room the catchy charm wore off about ten minutes into the festival. A week later and there are some seriously twitchy journalists around. You’ll be the one feeling like a room without a roof soon, pal.