Friday, September 14, 2012

TIFF Film Review: Clandestine Childhood

If you have an opportunity this Saturday (Sep.15) to see Argentine director’s Benjamin Avila’s Infancia Clandestina (Clandestine Childhood), then don’t miss it; it’s exquisite. And I’m not just saying this because my parents immigrated from the same country. 

He addresses the political issues of the period without being heavy. Set in Buenos Aires in 1979, during the time of “Los Desparados” (the disappearances). The country was under military dictatorship and Avila shares an autobiographical tale from the point of view of Ernesto, a twelve year old that is far too mature due to the violence that surrounds him. 

In deciding to cast children that had never acted before, Avila was able to get some wonderful performances especially from Ernesto Alteria and Violeta Palukas (Maria). Told with realism, the contrast between what Ernesto experiences at home and when he has time to play with his schoolmates, offers insight into the beauty of childhood innocence and just how much there is to lose. 

Like most children his age, Ernesto wishes to just enjoy school and experience first love, and all the growing pains associated with it in a care-free manner.  It’s refreshing to watch children play, Ernesto and his girlfriend don’t need anything to entertain themselves except an abandoned car in the park where they share their dreams and pretend to be driving away.  


Avila’s love for Argentina and the spirit of the country, (family-oriented, vibrant, emotional--they say it like it is) at that time comes through. The film is so heartfelt that in the Q & A afterwards, one patron thanked Avila because he had experienced the same suffering in South Africa. By using comic book effects for the scenes of violence, we’re always cognizant of childhood and the adults look foolish in comparison. 

Do you fight for your country or do you flee for safety? Is fighting the answer? Infancia Clandestina gets a full pot of java on my scale. --- Leticia Cambre


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