Have you ever heard of the so-called Latin American Boom? Yeah, I’m sick of hearing about it, too. The break-out generation of Latin American writers from the 1960s and 70s that includes giants like Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, has made literature from the region a trending topic for going on half a century. But outside of the walled fortress of Magical Realism and the like, there are a handful of brilliant but unique outliers that never quite fit into the dominant narrative of Latin American literature. Colombia’s Andrés Caicedo is one shining example whose work was recently vindicated by a camera-toting admirer. Next up to the plate is Argentina’s Néstor Sánchez.
Directed by Argentine documentarian Matilde Michanie, Se acabó la épica pieces together different moments from the life of Sánchez: a mentally unstable wanderer who produced a handful of highly idiosyncratic, spiritually-oriented avant-garde novels. But rather than a television-style biographical documentary, the talking heads in Se acabó la épica all had some sort of close, personal relationship with Sánchez, and their reflections are mixed in with narrated passages from Sánchez’s novels along with poetic imagery that ultimately gives a highly subjective vision of the writer and his work.
The film’s trailer gives us a sense of how this all plays out, with off-screen interviews that speak to a complex but brilliant man who consciously rejected the dominant trends in literature at the time, danced a wicked tango and befriended the likes of Julio Cortázar along the way. The symbolically-charged imagery – shadows, ice, mist, and shots in constant movement – powerfully evokes a mood that we can assume parallels Sánchez’s distinct voice. Undoubtedly, fans of novels like Nosotros dos or La condición efímera will appreciate this unconventional look into the author’s life, while book lovers unfamiliar with Sánchez’s work will certainly find good reason to get up to speed.