CINEMA Las Acacias
Not many features can leave Cannes Film Festival with three awards, yet Pablo Giorgelli’s Las Acacias can boast just that. Winning the prestigious Caméra d’Or, an award given to the best debut feature film, the production was also awarded the ACID prize and the Young Critics Award. Also gaining success at the BFI London Film Festival, winning the Sutherland Trophy – given to the most original and imaginative piece of cinematography by a debut filmmaker – it’s fair to say the pressure was on Las Acacias, as the expectations for this particular feature were suitably raised.
Set in a more tranquil, uninhabited South America than that which we are generally accustomed to, it tells the story of solitary truck driver Rubén (Germán de Silva), kindly offering a lift to single mother Jacinta (Hebe Duarte), who is travelling to Buenos Aires with her eight-month-old daughter Anahí (Nayra Calle Mamani).
Travelling all the way from Asunción, Paraguay, the pair had never previously met, and despite Jacinta’s best efforts to force conversation with the reticent Rubén, the lonely driver is a man of very few words, as his dour expression signifies.
However, as the journey progresses and the pair learn more about one another, cracks begin to show in Rubén’s demeanour, as, much to the help of the endearing Anahí, the pair begin to grow closer as the unlikely relationship soon begins to blossom, seemingly imperative for the two lost souls, simply trying to make ends meet…
Giorgelli’s production is a slow-burning treasure, proving to be a gratifying experience for the patient viewer. The slow pace works due to the short length of the feature, as, at just under an hour and a half, the film avoids becoming monotonous. Had it been prolonged, the subtle charm would lose some of its integrity and the film would have become tedious and dreary. A key reason why Giorgelli has received so much acclaim is by simply knowing when to stop. Too often we see films such as this go on just that half an hour too long.
There is little to no background information provided on either of the two protagonists, adding to the feeling that this is merely one journey caught in time. What happened before Jacinta and Rubén met, and, in a sense, even what occurs after the journey ends, just seems irrelevant, as the film bears a similar sentiment to that of a photograph, simply highlighting and intensifying a preciously captured moment.
However, for a feature of such little dialogue and tangible story, it relies upon its technicalities to enhance the narrative and its emotional impact on the viewer, and the camerawork is faultless.
As such a meditative and pensive drama, it’s a film you struggle to envisage being made in Hollywood.
Predominantly featuring just two camera angles, it remains simple and conventional, with wonderful side angle shots of either part, focusing on Rubén in the driving seat, and Jacinta in the passenger seat. Much of the film is portrayed in such a way, consistently blurring out those closest to the camera, leaving the focus on just one character at a time. It’s a simple yet effective technique, meaning the audience can only truly understand what one character is thinking at any given time, as Giorgelli dictates and engineers proceedings to his liking.
Yet for such camerawork to be effective, the actors need to be alluring and conspicuous, even more so given the lack of dialogue, as there is much prominence and emphasis placed on the facial and physical performances of the actors, and both are astounding.
De Silva shines as Rubén, portraying an intensity and vulnerability that makes him so difficult to comprehend. Much acclaim must also go to Duarte, putting in a striking performance in her debut feature film. Even the baby, Anahí, played by Mamani, is brilliant, although it’s difficult to describe it is as acting per se due to her tender age. Her adorability is prominent to the story, and she has a wonderful knack of crying or laughing at the precise moments.
As such a meditative and pensive drama, it’s a film you struggle to envisage being made in Hollywood. Such a slow-pace and minimalism epitomises the freedom for directors in world cinema, as few Hollywood filmmakers would be given such privileges in a debut production. Had the film been made in America, you would expect a few additions; perhaps a car chase or two, and a possible renaming to ‘Las Assassination’, no doubt featuring Nicholas Cage at some point also.
However, despite its positives, perhaps the minimalism proves a slight shortcoming within the film. It’s almost too minimalist and simplistic in parts, and although admirable for Giorgelli to be so measured and contemplative, the film could perhaps be improved with slightly more discourse and drama, as there appears to be little over a page’s worth of dialogue. However, without such austerity, the film may not appear so tender and endearing, two of its finest credentials.
To win such an array of awards at esteemed film festivals, Las Acacias was always going to be one to keep an eye out for, and this captivating, amiable and enriching feature doesn’t let you down, certainly proving to be a deserving winner of such accolades. Although Giorgelli has been rightly commended as a first-time filmmaker, it’s his second that is now being eagerly awaited and anticipated.
See The Film For Yourself
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