Of all the provinces of Argentina, Jujuy probably isn’t on your radar. A tiny nook in the country’s extreme northwest, Jujuy is one of the country’s smallest and most isolated regions, and maintains a distinctly indigenous flavor. But with a per capita income significantly lower than the national average, Jujuy has sought to diversify its economy by ramping up its tourist industry. Thanks to an attractive landscape that ranges from deep jungle to desert planes, Jujuy certainly has a lot to offer to visitors, but what effect might these changes have on local communities?
First-time filmmaker María Luján Loioco has taken on precisely this question in her debut feature La niña de tacones amarillos. The plot follows the coming of age of Isabel, a fifteen-year-old local of a small municipality in Jujuy that is shaken up by the construction of a new hotel. In the midst of the culture shock generated by the sudden influx of construction workers and executives from the capital, Isabela is taken by an outsider’s charms and slowly learns how to use her sexuality to achieve her goals.
From the trailer we can appreciate Luján’s attractive visual style, complete with strong, suggestive framing, and soft, low-contrast lighting. But Luján’s strongest achievement seems to be the casting of a local actress by the name of Mercedes Burgos, whose delicate beauty strikes just the right balance between innocence and a burgeoning ingenuity. Luján worked with a primarily local cast, which is a breath of fresh air from the usual suspects of Argentine cinema. Plus, the director apparently had just the right touch to draw out understated, naturalistic performances from her actors.
In addition to being a sensitive and honest portrait of early womanhood, La niña de tacones amarillos seems like an appropriate allegory for a region learning how to empower itself within the economic transformations brought about by a growing tourist industry.