To some of us, maps are in the same line with a very primordial version of Age of Empires – entities that expand and become real as we move around. Anything that is not in our daily surroundings can so easily stop existing on a mental level, along with the promises and possibilities they present. For those of us who grew up with forced Eurocentric perspectives, something quite similar goes for our political understanding of the globe: we almost always seem to skip a line or two when it comes to Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeastern Asia or Latin America.
Santiago Mitre’s directorial debut, The Student is one of those films that takes the audience out of their everyday comfort zone “geography”, and into the reality of a not-so-much-thought about place — Buenos Aires, Argentina in this case. The film revolves around the story of Roque (Esteban Lamothe), a drop-dead gorgeous twenty-something student who finds himself in the middle of politics at the University of Buenos Aires. Shortly after his enrollment, Roque becomes a part of roman-like power games, and a love triangle (or a rectangle, wait, I’m pretty sure it was a pentagon at some point.) While torn-out posters, colorful flyers, and handmade banners set the film’s gaudy background, university politics – at an unseen scale in North America since the late 70’s- form the foundation that will appeal to the disillusioned, has-been communists and apolitical students du jour alike.
Surprisingly, Student is light-hearted for a film that deals with such a heavy, microcosmic subject matter. The film does not compromise its young approved, tongue-in-cheek tone with its political leanings. Among the Adidas wearing Marxists and graffiti that reads, ‘Marry me, Banksy!’ Mitre gives Roque his own Juan Peron moment on a balcony, with his very own Evita (Paula). Accompanied by the leitmotifs of Argentine trademark maté, asados and 10 PM dinners, Mitre takes learning out of the classroom and promises a new breath to the Argentine film scene that has been in inertia since the days of Bielinsky and Campanella.
At the NYFF premier(Oct. 8)– Mitre, a recent graduate of UBA himself, admitted that he was inspired by the political activism that surrounded him in Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, he pointed out that he hoped his work could enable viewers to think twice about the kind of politics that they align themselves with. Given that the Occupy Wall Street protestors were skating their way downtown on Broadway right outside the Alice Tully Hall at that very moment, the director couldn’t be more timely.
The Student will be screened as a part of the Main Slate at NYFF on October 12.