Friday, July 06, 2007

Copa America Film Festival, Group C

Both Paraguay and Argentina started off in fine form in this group, with each team scoring 8 goals in their first two games -- Paraguay beat Colombia 5-0 and USA 3-1, with Argentina securing 4-1 and 4-2 results against the US and Colombia. Argentina won the group beating Paraguay 1-0 and Colombia took third spot beating the Americans by the same score.

As it turns out, things were a bit different in the film standings. Of the 4 countries, Colombia managed the same position in both the Copa and film tournament -- 3rd spot.


Along with Brazil, Argentina are considered one of the best soccer teams in the world. Over the past few decades, they have produced quality players who have shown great flair and genius in front of goal. In fact, Argentina were quite a team from early days of soccer in the late 1920's and 1930's -- they reached the final of the first world cup losing 4-2 to Uruguay. But despite all their talent, there is a shade of darkness that lurks behind their success. Both the Argentinian world cup wins are tainted with accusations of cheating.

In 1978, Argentina hosted the tournament and won a pulsating final, 3-1 against a very good Dutch team. Mario Kempes may have been the hero for Argentina that tournament but it was the manner that the host team got to the final that still leaves a bad taste. Argentina had to beat Peru by 4 goals in the final game to reach the final ahead of Brazil. Peru hardly put up a fight and rolled over 6-0 to Argentina. Was there a bribe involved? Or were Peru scared of Argentina's dictatorship? No only well ever truly know.

In 1986, Argentina showed nothing but skill in all their games, except for a second of cheating in their quarter-final game against England. Argentina beat the English 2-1 thanks to two goals from Diego Maradona -- the second goal is still truly one of the best world cup goals of all time but the first is a shameful account of the worst this game has to offer. Maradona clearly punched the ball into the net but the referee didn't see that and awarded the goal. The second goal proved Argentina's superiority and even made the first incident seem worse -- such a good side didn't need to cheat but they did. And over the years, you can still find some incidents of cheating occurring despite the wealth of talent that the country has.

The 1978 world cup also helped mask the real problem of the Argentina's political situation. The dictatorship freely went about doing whatever they pleased and kidnaped anyone who opposed them. The "disapperances" of innocent people is something well documented now with new stories emerging every year as to what went on. Luis Puenzo's powerful & emotional film The Official Story weaves a story about such shadowy political acts. A couple adopt a little child. But where did the child come from? The husband does not want the wife to find out lest they lose the child. She can't resist and probes deeper. The truth threatens to tear them apart -- the child was one of those "disappeared" babies that was born when her mother was taken away. The film probes into a dark past of Argentina's history -- it scratches the surface to find the secrets and scars conveniently tucked away. And to think that while people were being taken away, the world was watching a soccer game?


Colombia is another South American country that is only mentioned in North American media when some crime has occurred -- we only hear and read of their drug and crime rate. But a nation is more than what a few corrupt people do with it. So in that sense, it was refreshing to see a cute film about innocent children from Colombia. Los niños invisibles is about that precious age when kids believe in magic and are still forming their view of the world. We get to see the children's first feelings of love, infatuation and see them lie for the first time. The film's title refers to three children's plan to use a secret formula to become invisible. Just a sweet harmless film.


Cinema is not Paraguay's major export. Maybe that will change in the future? It was really impossible to find a film from this landlocked country. 2006's Paraguayan Hammock was my best bet but the film is not out on DVD yet.


The Americans sent a young team to Copa America. So it was not surprizing that the team lost all three games, but atleast the youngsters put up a fight and gained some valuable experience for the future. While the soccer team might have been inexperienced, I picked an American entry from one of the most experienced film-makers. Alfred Hitchcock is considered a genius and his films are dissected and studied endlessly. Even though Hitchcock directed more than 60 films, only a handful of his films are mentioned more than others -- Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho, The Man Who Knew too Much and North by Northwest. Even though I had not seen this 1959 film, I had seen a few of its scenes in trailers over the years -- the plane heading down sharply towards Cary Grant and the chase scene over Mt.Rushmore.

This is a classic spy film. From the first frame, the action starts. Fast, fast...confusion. 30 minutes go by, and we are given a clue as to what the mystery is about. Phew. Relax. Now, it seems the rest of the film will be an easy relaxing watch. But no, another twist. Chase. Run. Then another clue and we can breathe easy again. But the action picks up again...finally, when we have all the clues, a long chase sequence ends the film.

I was not a big fan of the action scene in the end but as it turned out, Hitchcock wanted to make a film with a chase sequence on Mt. Rushmore. So if that scene didn't exist, then this movie might not have existed either! But I am a big fan of that plane scene -- how the plane heads menacingly towards Cary Grant is well filmed. Ofcourse, the background music is pitch perfect as usual, touching all the right emotions.

Final Group Standings:

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