Wednesday, 21 September 2016

años de calle (w&d. alejandra grinschpun, w. laureano ladislao gutiérrez)

The Sala Zitarossa is filled to the rafters with young people and no-one quite knows why. The film is shown free as part of a season of documentaries which normally attract around 30 people, rather than the hundreds who have turned up today. They watch respectfully this compelling account of the lives of four Buenos Aires street kids, told over the course of ten years. (Años de Calle translates as Street Years). The filmmakers, Alejandra Grinschpun & Laureano Ladislao Gutiérrez first find their subjects in 1999, when the political posters are for Menem. The filmmakers are contributing to a photography outreach program, taking photos of street kids and giving them cameras to take photos with. The kids, ranging from 13 to 17, show them around their habitat in the railway sidings which run through the heart of the city, the high rise buildings framing their cardboard shelters. Five years later, 2004, the filmmakers catch up with them again. Andrés is in prison. Gachi is about to have her third child. They retain the beaky optimism of youth, in spite of the hard years they’ve already lived. By the last time of filming, their attitudes have hardened. One, Ruben has vanished, his mother trying to trace his whereabouts. Andrés is back in prison, spending the eighth year out of ten incarcerated. His subdued monotone seems a lifetime away from the cheeky kid we first met. Gachi doesn’t want to talk to the camera anymore. The camera has done nothing for over the years. She lives in a noisy garage with her partner and some of her kids. She hides her face from the camera. The only one who seems to have been able to escape destiny is Ismael, who is now himself giving photography courses to street kids, recycling the knowledge the filming has given him. Once again, in Buenos Aires as in London, the arts prove more than just decorative: they represent a means of social mobility that other professions cannot offer. It’s hard to contemplate Ismael as a lawyer or a doctor, but photography would appear to have offered him a niche in a brutal world. This is a lovingly composed film, crafted over time. It’s lack of adornment or ego is to its credit: the souls who are its subject matter are the film’s tragic heroes. Años de Calle is the anti-Boyhood, with its North American complacency. This is an account of lives lead on the other side of tracks. 

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