BEIRUT: On Wednesday, October 4th, 2017, the Beirut International Film Festival team stormed Metropolis Cinema and spread their blue carpet, a color that was insisted upon by festival director Colette Naufal, and awaited the arrival of the star-studded international guests.
Serge Majdalany hosted a live broadcast on the festival’s Facebook page speaking to all the guests as they arrived.
Meanwhile, Elias Doummar, Festival Programmer, guided guests as they arrived and ensured all was running smoothly.
The night buzzed with cinephiles, supporters, and industry officials, spreading enthusiasm as all entered the screening rooms for the ceremonial debut. After Festival MC Pierrette Katrib greeted guests, she asked festival director Colette Naufal to join her, who in turn called upon Argentinian director Santiago Mitre to the stage, but not before Naufal shared a piece of trivia regarding Mitre’s Lebanese and Syrian ancestry.
After Festival MC Pierrette Katrib greeted guests, she asked festival director Colette Naufal to join her, who in turn called upon Argentinian director Santiago Mitre to the stage, but not before Naufal shared a piece of trivia regarding Mitre’s Lebanese and Syrian ancestry.
Mitre briefly spoke about the film and hoped that it would not “bore”, due to its focus on Argentinian politics that even “Argentinians don’t fully understand.”
Then, with a shy thank you in Arabic, he steps off the stage, the lights dimmed and his film La Cordillera began.
The film offers a very interesting experience, due to the push and pull affect it lays upon its audience.
Running at 114 minutes, it tells the tale of a fictional Argentinian president that faces an important decision while at a summit that takes place at La Cordillera, a famous mountain range in the region.
The narrative plays out like an unseen yet deadly snake in the grass.
It follows the protagonist Hernán Blanco, played masterfully by Ricardo Darín, as he slowly reveals that he is not as “invisible” as the world sees him to be.
A man burdened with many complexities, including his unstable daughter Marina, another stellar performance by Dolores Fonzi, who is also well read and a fan of Marxist ideologies, becomes the allegory of the dangers of politics.
Director of Photography Javier Juliá delivers some breathtaking shots that isolate the politicians in a world of their own, untouchable by the outside world.
Juliá’s camera does not move a lot but rather holds in a rigid fashion, placing emphasis on the rare times it does move – a cue for the audience to pay attention.
Mitre and Juliá both utilize the surrounding snow-covered landscape to contrast the darkness within the summit with the purity that lies outside.
Another strategic use of white was the fact that President Paula Scherson was the only character who wore white through the entire film, while everyone else wore darker color tones.
The narrative as a whole felt rather down-played and ends rather bleakly, delivering a third act that feels out of place and many character arcs feel completely unresolved.
Yet, what makes the film exceptionally engaging is the ensemble of charismatic and characterized actors.
Not one breaks out of character, and each delivers a solid performance, captivating the audience regardless of the interest in the film’s narrative.
The drawback in a film such as La Cordillera is its subjective and uninviting look at South American politics.
Where other politically driven international films do their best to inform the audience of the ins-and-outs of the country’s political climate, La Cordillera leaves up to the audience to catch up.
All that aside, the film does hold for the most part and entertains but upon exiting the screening room a feeling of awkward emptiness does wash over.
This could be due to the narrative’s distancing effect, or even the film’s overall slow-pace.
La Cordillera premiered in Cannes earlier this year in the festival’s Un Certain Regard.
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