Paraguay may not be on a lot of people’s radars, but over the last few years the landlocked country of 7 million has been making itself known on the international film circuit. Adding to a growing filmography that includes films like 7 Cajas and La hamaca paraguaya, Guaraní is a new feature that explores the cultural complexities of a nation still reeling from 30 years of dictatorship and struggling to maintain its unique identity.
The playful road movie follows an aging Guaraní-speaking fisherman who lives in a humble house with his daughters and granddaughters. When he learns that a daughter living in Buenos Aires is on the verge of giving birth to a son, he sets out toward the great metropolis in hopes of convincing her to give birth in Paraguay so he can teach his first grandson the traditional ways. For good measure, the grandfather grabs his 11-year-old granddaughter to serve as an interpreter and the two set off on a journey of intergenerational understanding.
Despite the film’s deep concern for Paraguay’s traditional culture and the indigenous language from which it takes its title, Guaraní was actually written and directed by first-time Argentine filmmaker Luis Zorraquín. Inspired by the distorted versions of Paraguayan history taught in Argentina, Zorraquín set out to understand the challenges of a culture that has suffered greatly through decades of war and oppression.
The result is a breezy feature shot with a sensitive eye for the endless landscapes of the South American pampas. Veteran actor Emilio Barreto falls right into his role as the grandfather Atilio, while the dynamic with young discovery Jazmín Bogarín as his granddaughter is naturalistic and fun.