Within the Paraná Delta, a labyrinthine system of wetlands in northern Argentina, reed harvester Alvaro (Jorge Román) is, like everyone from his widely dispersed community, a tight-lipped loner. What sets him apart as an outsider among outsiders is that he’s also gay, though the feeling may be self-imposed as no one even addresses his sexuality besides the bullying water-taxi captain El Turu (Daniel Valenzuela), a thick-faced brute who taunts Alvaro with slurs one moment—and checks out his ass the next. Their foreseeable power struggle and a peripheral skirmish with illegal Paraguayan loggers aside, not much else happens or is even spoken about in the jungles of Santiago Otheguy’s gratuitously slow-burning debut, remarkable only for its silvery, black-and-white HD lusciousness. At its pragmatic best, the film serves as a litmus test for one’s patience with decidedly minimalist cinema: How much reward is there in a feature’s worth of expressionless faces, bare-bones dialogue, and static shots that never seem to cut? The evocative milieu and stunning cinematography both underscore Otheguy’s atmosphere of isolation, but his lack of momentum, character development, and deepening of themes make us feel mighty alone, too. Maybe that’s the point.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 8, 2008