123 minutes

For her debut feature, Mexico-based, Argentinian screenwriter Paula Markovitch delved into her own memories of growing up under a totalitarian regime in the 1970s, turning them into a moody meditation on innocence lost. Seven-year-old Cecilia settles with her mother in a dilapidated beach house in provincial coastal Argentina, running away from the police after the disappearance of her father in hope they will not be found. Cecilia eventually enrolls in the local school where she quickly makes friends, even though the obviously pro-regime teacher thinks there is something unusual about the new student, with things coming to a head when the Army shows up with a vat of cocoa and a writing competition.
Ms. Markovitch, best known for her co-writing credits in Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke's deadpan, wry satires Duck Season and Lake Tahoe, has a very personal eye for framing and gets a lot of mileage out of her careful handling of the non-professional kids she has cast. This is crucial for what is essentially a coming-of-age story, with Cecilia (a wonderful Paula Hertzog) having to face adult emotions at a very early age, but though there's nothing inherently wrong with the movie you do feel that Ms. Markovitch is hammering the point home for much longer and a lot harder than she should, the totalitarian metaphor being obtrusively underlined at every moment. While El Premio is a creditable debut, the general claustrophobic palette of grey dreariness and the sprawling length reinforce the feeling that the whole thing was so close to the fledgling director's heart that the film may have simply got away from her.
© 2011 Jorge Mourinha

Starring Paula Rafaelli Hertzog, Sharon Herrera, Laura Agorreca, Viviane Suraniti, Uriel Iasillo.
Directed and written by Paula Markovitch; produced by Izrael Moreno; music by Sergio Gurrola; director of photography (colour, widescreen), Wojciech Staron; production designer, Bárbara Enriquez; costume designers, Victoria Pugliese, Macarena Pazos; film editor, Lorena Moriconi.
A !Kung presentation/production, in co-production with Mille et Une Productions, Staron Film, Iz Film, Altamira Film, Niko Film; with the support of Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía, Conaculta, Foprocine, FONCA, World Cinema Fund, Polish Film Institute, Fonds Sud Cinéma. (World sales, Umedia.)
Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2011, official competition screening, Urania Humboldt-Saal (Berlin), February 12th 2011. 


Anonymous said…
Please check your facts. You are confusing the Argentine dictatorship with the Chilean.
Jorge Mourinha said…
Thank you for pointing it out. Duly corrected.

Popular Posts