Cinema of Argentina
Personal recommendations in chronological order
This will be a lighter post in terms of data, but Argentine Cinema has definitely been a very important factor in my appreciation for Argentina (same for other Latam countries like Brazil and Mexico, which both have an outstanding cinema industry as well), and decision to eventually move here.
For this overview I will only include titles that have made an impact on me personally, which is a highly subjective inclusion method. But if you’re into cinema, this list will surely interest you (you might have seen some of these already).
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I have left out the more “golden oldies”, like Esperando la Carroza (1985) and some other films from the 80’s and 90’s (like Pizza, Birra, Faso (1998)), because these are a bit harder to sit through since they have a lot of local references that get lost on an international audience and might seem a bit slow for today’s day and age. If you’re specifically into Argentine cinema or culture, I recommend checking out older films from the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s as well.
Here’s my list for personal recommendations for Argentine cinema, in chronological order:
Garage Olimpo (1999)
Apologies for starting off the list like Debbie Downer, but this film should have a warning for sensitive viewers, as it is ULTRA dark. It is however, one of the best representations of what went down in the captivity centers all around the country during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983).
I haven’t found another film that really goes through the full cycle and depicts the relationship between captors and captives as well as this movie. Do keep in mind that this is a hard downer and you will probably feel bad after watching it, so take that as warning. Many of the scenes in this movie happened in some shape or form during that period.
The actual place Garage Olimpo where these things happened has now been transformed into an open air museum (the roof is partially missing). There is also the ESMA center (which was the biggest torture / captive center in Buenos Aires), which is a bigger museum with guided tours. When you go to any of these places, there’s this weird energy that just gives you the chills. If you’ve ever been to Auschwitz, you know what I mean.
You can watch the full movie here (pixel quality for that link is very low and no subtitles, so I would recommend getting your hands on an HD copy if possible). If you would like to learn more about this subject I can also recommend La Historia Oficial (1985 - available on NF), which is one of the first movies discussing the dictatorship. A little older, but definitely a classic.
Nueve Reinas (2000)
This is an absolute must, and one of the movies that I saw before moving to Argentina while I was still learning Spanish.
The backdrop for Nine Queens is the unstable Argentina of Fernando de la Rúa, who’s presidency ended abruptly in December 2001 with a chaotic country that forced him to leave the country through the back door of the Casa Rosada.
Director Fabián Bielinsky tells the story of two fraudsters, Marcos (Ricardo Darín) and Juan (Gastón Pauls), who meet through a skilful trick. They are two hustlers with many of the "tricks" the Buenos Aires idiosyncrasy is infamous for, which play with the trust, patience and honesty of other people. It’s a display of Argentinisms and lunfardo language.
I used one of the scenes in this absolute classic for my intro on the first BowTiedBull post about Argentina, and have rewatched the movie since then. It doesn’t get old and is still very entertaining.
Un Oso Rojo (2002)
Imagine Clint Eastwood arriving on his horse to a typical western town after being in jail. He wants to see his family, except that it’s no longer his family because his wife now has another partner.
The gunman stays in the town and gets a job from the wealthy saloon owner, who also happens to be the lord and master of the town. This saloon owner invites the gunman to a bank robbery in another town.
Basically that’s the storyline but set in the Province of Buenos Aires right after the big financial crisis of 2002.
El Bonaerense (2002)
This is an absolute banger about corrupt police in the outskirts around Buenos Aires and in the province of Buenos Aires.
I religiously watch every film he makes and in my opinion he is the top director in Argentina of this century so far.
There are so many good scenes in this film. You can watch the full movie here (unfortunately only automated English captions available if you don’t speak Spanish).
El Secreto de sus ojos (2009)
The Secret in Their Eyes is an Argentine police-themed drama released in 2009 and directed by director Juan José Campanella. It also the only Argentine movie to ever receive an Oscar for best international picture.
The movie is based on the novel The question in their eyes by Eduardo Sancheri, and the story deals with an unsolved murder that after 25 years still continues to mark the life of the main character, Benjamín Espósito.
The film is a cinema masterpiece, moving the viewer thanks to a spectacular narration and brilliant performance of the actors.
Another awesome Pablo Trapero movie. Carancho is literally a bird of prey, but it is also used to describe unscrupulous accident lawyers that will do anything in their possibility to be able to make a claim for their clients and keep a nice 20% or more of the deal, usually framing false evidence or making up situations to increase insurance claims.
The story revolves around the relationship that oscillates between love and hate between two people: Sosa and Luján. The first is the "carancho", a corrupt lawyer who, like the scavenging bird of prey, lives off the victims of traffic accidents. Luján is an idealist doctor that has to deal with Sosa’s “clients”.
This film is one of the best windows into the ingrained corruption in everyday life in Argentina, and caranchos have transformed that into a tragic art. You can watch the full movie here (same as the movie above, only automated subs).
Relatos Salvajes (2014)
This has probably been one of the biggest Argentine blockbusters of the past decade after El Secreto de sus Ojos, and was very successful in movie theaters around the world.
The film is made up of six independent stories that combine suspense, humor and violence. Inequality, injustice and all the fact of living in Argentina causes many people to become stressed or depressed. Some explode. This is a movie about them.
I personally went through the bombita story after my car was towed from the Recoleta neighborhood while it was parked correctly (except that I didn’t take my anger to the full extent as bombita does in the movie).
El Clan (2015)
Yet another Pablo Trapero movie, this is the real life story of the Puccio Clan, which shocked Argentine society in the early 1980s. Behind the apparent normality of the Puccio family, there’s a sinister clan dedicated to kidnapping and murder. Patriarch Archimedes is a member of the Intelligence Service since the start of the dictatorship, and he leads and plans the operations.
Semi-heavy material for more sensitive folks, but it gives you a great look into all the things that went on during the last dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983). The acting is superb.
You can watch the full movie here in Spanish (only automatically generated Spanish subs), I couldn’t find a free version with English subs, but it is widely available for rent online.
As you can see, most movies here are older, and even though I have seen a few in recent years, there’s just a lot less time to start binging movies if you’re constantly grinding for WiFi money.
Very good movies that are also worth watching include:
El Elefante Blanco (2012) - The story of the friendship between two priests who settle in a neighborhood of Buenos Aires to develop their apostolate and social work (based on a real story).
El Patrón (2014) - available on NF - Humble man gets a job in a butcher shop and the sinister owner slowly pressures him into a life of slavery, leading to tragedy (based on a real story).
El Ciudadano Ilustre (2016) - available on NF - Straw Dogs style movie about a writer that goes back to his home town, where things take a dark turn.
Mi Obra Maestra (2018) - hilarious movie, also on NF - A once-successful artist is deeply affected by the failure of his latest exhibition. His gallery owner, a lifelong friend, will try to revalue his work at all costs.
But some newer movies that are on my to watch list include:
Los Ladrones (2022) - documentary on NF about the biggest bank heist in Argentina
La Ira de Dios (2021) - on NF
El Reino (2021) - on NF
Let me know in the comments if there was an Argentine movie you would absolutely include in the list.
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