White Elephant (Elefante Blanco)
Cert: 15 Year: 2013 Length: 100 mins Language: Spanish
Cinema Handout (PDF 118KB)
Score: 68.48% Attendance: 95
Welcome to ‘Villa Virgin’, a shantytown in a Buenos Aires slum. The scene is an unfinished hospital—the ‘white elephant’ of the title. The background is corrupt politicians failing to get a housing project built, and drug cartels vying for control of the area - a (sadly) all too familiar backdrop to the modern world.
Our heroes here, are two priests trying to keep the peace between the rival gangs whilst pushing the politicians to get the housing project completed. Meanwhile, the homeless live in the empty hospital; all that is needed for an explosion is for something to light the fuse...
The backdrop of poverty and homelessness bring to mind the recent battles of Hugo Chavez in Venezula, whilst the church’s ‘peoples champion’ is even closer to home with the selection of the Argentinean Pope. These big issues are obviously part of this film, but Pablo Trapero is more interested in the real-world problems faced by the people involved; while the politicians procrastinate and get rich, the people battle everyday starvation, homelessness and violence and the priests face their own personal problems.
South American cinema has grown and grown recently. Pablo Trapero is familiar to us - we have seen his ‘Lions Den’ and ‘Carancho’ in recent seasons. You may well recognize the actors too - Father Julian is played by Ricardo Darin (‘The Secret in their Eyes’), Father Nicolas - Jeremie Renier (‘The Kid with a Bike’) - whilst Martina Gusman who plays the community worker Luciana also appeared in Trapero’s two recent films.
We should expect political intrigue, then, but most of all we should expect drama.
This hard-hitting tale of Catholic priests working in the slums of Argentina thrills from start to finish
Phillip French, Observer
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