dir. Pablo Trapero, Argentina, 2012, DCP, Spanish w/ English subtitles, 105 min.
In this Buenos Aires blockbuster, Argentine superstar Ricardo Darín (The Secret in Their Eyes) stars as Father Julián, a shantytown priest facing the end of his career. White Elephant begins when Julián recruits Father Nicolas (Jérémie Renier of In Bruges), a young Belgian priest, to do social work in the slums of Buenos Aires. However, Nicolas’s unorthodox methods get him involved in dangerous drug gang wars and an ill-advised relationship with Luciana (Martina Gusman), a fellow social worker. Director Pablo Trapero (Carancho, Lion’s Den) creates an epic and authentic portrayal of the Argentine slum that joins films like City of God and Slumdog Millionaire in its use of dynamic visuals to present harsh social realities. From its mesmerizing tracking shots through a half-built hospital to a riveting sequence shot in the back alleys of the slum, Trapero’s film is gripping. But it is Darín’s assured, dignified performance that elevates White Elephant, imbuing his character with the actors’ personal charisma. Father Julián is a conflicted man battling his own demons, yet he bravely soldiers on as an all-too-human saintly character that pays homage to the real-life shantytown priest Carlos Mugica. With the right balance of fast-paced action and social commentary, White Elephant was a hit throughout Argentina in 2012, and it was declared “of social and cultural interest” by the Buenos Aires legislature.
The screening will be introduced by Beatriz Urraca and Gary M. Kramer, co-editors of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. A discussion will follow the film.
Presented in conjunction with the publication of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina (Intellect, 2014)