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Shades of Grey: Lucrecia Martel’s “La Cienaga”

Shades of Grey: Lucrecia Martel's "La Cienaga"

What does it mean to call someone a Latin American filmmaker? Is the label simply biographical, or also analytical? Is it meaningfully descriptive, or does it impose an aesthetic, formal, or thematic commonality that doesn’t actually exist?

These questions don’t get any easier to answer at the level of individual national cinemas. Lucrecia Martel, the director of La Cienaga (The Swamp), The Holy Girl, and The Headless Woman, rejects the idea of a New Argentine Cinema. Martel acknowledges that she and her Argentinean contemporaries have emerged from a specific social, cultural, and political context—one defined largely by the military dictatorship that ruled the country in the Seventies and Eighties. But she does not see herself as part of a community of new Argentinean filmmakers, nor does she acknowledge a shared sensibility. Compare this to other, more easily definable film movements: whereas the term Cinema Novo refers to a distinctive filmic project, and the directors of the Nouvelle Vague, whatever their divergences, engaged in active dialogues with one another about their aesthetic and political aims, there is nothing precise beyond the citizenship of its filmmakers and their growing international profile to define New Argentine Cinema, and no easy way to group the internationally funded films this movement comprises. Read the rest of Chris Wisniewski’s entry in Reverse Shot’s American All-Stars symposium.

La Cienaga plays this Saturday, October 23 at New York’s IFC Center.

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