Ricardo Darrin in my favorite actor in Argentina. He is amazing. He can play any role and play it well. Whenever he has a new movie I go to see it. When Elefante Blanco came out, it was almost impossible for me to find someone to go see it with.
My Argentine friends fell into two categories; A) The cost of movies is too high. Most movies are now 42 pesos. B) They heard that it was a very sad movie and did not want to see it. The theater Gaumont on Rivadavia is subsidized. They show movies for 8 pesos, 6 if you are retired. When Elefante Blanco finally made its way there, I once again started to ask my friends if they would go with me. I got a myriad of excuses.
I was thrilled when my little sister Amy moved back to Buenos AIres. She is my movie and theater buddy. Because she is bi-lingual, we can go to any movie. I ask her to go see Elefante Blanco with me. She is excited. She likes Darrin too.
This movie is about a priest who works in the villa. A villa or properly called villa misere are the slums. The villas here make Watts look like Beverly Hills. The movie is filmed exclusively in a villa. The one thing I like about Argentine cinema is that it does not depend on special effects and animation like American cinema.
The name Elefante Blanco describes the construction of a public housing project that was never finished. Huge white buildings that were to be the jewels of an administration. Now they are taken over by the impoverished, drug addicted, drug lords. They lack plumbing, electricity, walls. They are supposedly administered by the Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo.
Unfortunately this is a song that is sung over many public works here in Argentina. Works that are announced and never consumated, works that are begun and never finished, works that are terminated poorly. The end result of political corruption.
The movie shows the conditions of how these people live. The homes, if you want to call them that in the villas are built by the people who live there. They are built with concrete and cinder blocks. They have electricity, water, which they do not pay for. The 3 priests and the social worker in the movie try to better conditions for the people who live there. A losing battle.
There is no surprise to see the drug labs, the drug wars, and the police brutalitly. As a North American, this type of police brutality stopped long ago. Here it still exists. Another culture, another world. What you do realize, is that there is no hope. These people have no way out. I suppose this is why my Argentine friends did not want to see this movie. Too depressing.
The next morning after I saw the movie the headlines in the papers were how the Super Minister of Economy had increased his wealth 91.5% in one year and 30 times in 8 years. I have no problem with politicians being wealthy. But there is something wrong when politicians increase their wealth significantly in a year and the people they supposedly serve are suffering as a result of flawed policies.