Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Copa America 2011: Paraguay

Entry #13 (final entry) of the Copa America 2011 Book & Film Festival.

Book: I, The Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos

Augusto Roa Bastos’ I, The Supreme is an incredible book that manages to convey a dictator’s egoistic personality while detailing the jostling for power that took place following Paraguay’s independence. The book is a fictional account of Jose Gaspar Rodriguez Francia, the dictator that ruled Paraguay from 1816 until his death in 1840. However, the book is not presented as a straight forward portrayal but is a richly layered work that combines many voices as part of the narrative. The book is presented as a compiled work which contains the dictator El Supremo’s personal diary notes, excerpts from fictional books written by people who personally met the perpetual dictator and conversations between the dictator and his secretary. This tactic lends humor to the narrative and allows the reader to step back and judge for themselves the validity of some facts dictated by El Supremo.

Carlos Fuentes’ excellent NY Times article describes how Augusto Roa Bastos’ book came to be published, the author’s life and insightful critique of I, The Supreme.

Film: Noche Adentro (2009, Pablo Lamar, 17 min)

Pablo Lamar’s film manages to turn one of the most memorable nights in a couple’s life into an unforgettable nightmare. The wedding party is still going on even though the newly married coupled have retreated to their bedroom. The delightful music is playing and the guests are dancing.

Fade to Black.

When the blackness ends, a hazy image of a blood covered vagina comes into focus. As the camera moves over the dead bride's body, we hear footsteps being dragged. The camera reveals a groom covered in blood as well. The groom then drags the bride's body down the stairs and into the alleyways. All is quiet on the streets and the only noise we hear is the groom struggling to move his bride's body.

Noche Adentro is a tragic poem that effectively utilizes every minute. There are some words spoken in the opening minute after which the film lets the natural sounds of the surroundings fill the screen.

Bonus Film: I Hear Your Scream (2008, Pablo Lamar, 11 min)

A long shot of a solitary man opens I hear your scream. The man heads into the house from which a crowd emerges. Eventually, the crowd empties out carrying a coffin while the solitary man stays behind. His silence speaks volumes as he watches the crowd disappear with the coffin. I Hear Your Scream is thoughtful and touching without using any close-ups.

Paraguay’s Copa America Campaign

Paraguay set a new record at this year's Copa America by becoming the first team to reach the final without winning a game in regulation time. Paraguay also experienced both good fortune by avoiding defeats in games they were outplayed in and bad luck when they drew games they should have won. After an opening 0-0 tie with Ecuador, Paraguay should have won their next two group games but gave up leads in the final minutes. Against Brazil, Paraguay were comfortably 2-1 up and looked in no danger as they dealt with every single Brazilian move through the middle with relative ease but in the last minute, they let the ball reach Fred who turned and tied the game up. In the next game, Paraguay incredibly let a 3-1 lead slip in the 90th minute as Venezuela tied the game 3-3. That result meant Paraguay finished as only the second 3rd best team and had to face Brazil again in the quarters. This time it was Paraguay's turn to have luck on their side as they saw Brazil waste chance after chance. In the penalty shoot-out, the Paraguayan captain and goalie Justo Villar saved a penalty from Thiago Silva but his save did not matter as Brazil took three of the worst penalty kicks in the history of the game including blasting two efforts well over the bar. Elano and Santos blamed the turf but Paraguay converted two kicks from the same spot to win 2-0 on penalties. In the semis, Paraguay once again rode their luck through 120 minutes of extra-time and in the penalty shoot-out Villar's single save was enough for a 5-3 Paraguay win over Venezuela. All the other 8 penalties taken by both sides were some of the most perfect penalties ever dispatched in the high pressure situation of a shoot-out. After two back-to-back tiring games, a host of injuries and suspension of their influential coach Gerardo Martino, a weakened Paraguay took to the field against Uruguay in the final. Paraguay never stood a chance and were under severe pressure from the opening minutes when Uruguay earned corner after corner. Suarez made the pressure pay off by scoring a wonderful goal in the 11th minute and Forlan's precise strike before half-time basically settled the game. Forlan added a late goal to seal a record 15th Copa America for Uruguay. Paraguay might have offered more in the final if they did not have their injury problems (specifically to Roque Santa Cruz) which resulted in some of the tactical changes that Martino made but still their campaign was a success. Also, the current Paraguayan goalkeeper Justo Villar has shown some of the leadership that Jose Luis Chilavert once displayed.

Paraguay's performance this year and at last year's world cup certainly means no team will fancy taking them on in the future. Their results from the 2010 World Cup and this year's Copa include five 0-0 draws with Paraguay winning all three 0-0 games that went to penalties.

Paraguay @ 2010 World Cup

1-1 Italy
2-0 Slovakia
0-0 New Zealand
0-0 Japan, Paraguay won 5-3 on penalties
0-1 Spain, with David Villa getting the goal in the 83th min

Paraguay @ 2011 Copa America

0-0 Ecuador
2-2 Brazil
3-3 Venezuela
0-0 Brazil, 2-0 win for Paraguay on penalties
0-0 Venezuela, 5-3 penalty win
0-3 Uruguay

On top of that Paraguay have qualified for four straight World Cups from 1998 - 2010 and were almost always tough to breakdown. In 1998, Paraguay had two 0-0 draws against Bulgaria and Spain in the group games. A 3-1 over Nigeria put them through to the round of 16 where eventual World Cup winners France needed extra-time to beat Paraguay 1-0. 2010 World Cup winners Spain also only managed a 1-0 win over Paraguay with a late goal in a game where both opposing goal-keepers saved a penalty.

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