Now in Theaters: Infancia Clandestina (Clandestine Childhood)

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This week you have the chance to go see an Argentinean indie that’s been winning awards all over the place and is funny, moving, and just so darn cute. Infancia Clandestina (Clandestine Childhood) draws from the director’s own life experience. Benjamín Ávila’s story takes place in the late ‘70s when a military junta was in power and carried out the dirty war, targeting leftists. Ok, this sounds pretty intense and it is, but it also recounts the childhood of a kid who is just trying to be kid and who has a big crush on his classmate.

Juan and his family have been living in Cuba, in exile, because of his parent’s involvement with Montoneros, a group of leftist guerillas. His parents decide to return to Argentina with their other comrades to fight against the dictatorship. They enter the country under assumed identities with fake passports—Juan’s new name is Ernesto. His family is always under threat of being found out, they are in a constant state of fear. He must learn to get rid of his Cuban accent, to speak like an Argentinean. He practices his new name over and over; his dad shows him the secret room he must hide in if need be. Then at his new school he meets Maria and everything changes.

The first time he sees her—while sitting with a group of his new friends watching the girls practice gymnastics—time slows down, the movie goes into slow motion, the sounds drops out, his gaze completely focused on Maria and we know that he is falling in love. Later, sitting in the park with his mom, he asks her, “How did you know that you liked dad?” She teases him and asks who the girl is. Just like any 5th grader would do, he gets embarrassed and says, “no one.”

The handheld camera with skewed frames, low angles, and bright colors, together with its melodic score take you inside Ávila’s cinematic memoir. It is a portrait of a loving family and a regular kid living under exceptional conditions. There are terrifying moments when Juan’s life and that of his family is in danger. His mother yells at him to hide in the secret room and all you hear is his heavy breathing, his fear pulsates through the screen. And there are tender, sweet moments like the first time he kisses Maria or when he holds her hand on the bus ride home from camp. His intense feelings for Maria provide an escape from his constant fear. The film won ten awards at the Premios Sur, Argentina’s equivalent of the Oscars and was their official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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It opens Friday, January 11 in New York and in Los Angeles starting Friday, February 8, 2013.

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
Broadway (62nd and 63rd St)
Showtimes: 11:10am, 1:10pm, 3:25pm, 5:40pm, 7:55pm, 10:05pm
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th Street (Fifth and Sixth Ave)
Showtimes: 12:55pm, 3:05pm, 5:15pm, 7:25pm, 9:50pm
Q&A with the Filmmaker at the following NYC screenings
Fri 1/11 at 7:25pm (Quad) and 7:55pm (Lincoln Plaza)
Sat 1/12 at 12:55pm Quad) and Sun 1/13 at 3:25pm (Lincoln Plaza)

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