For only the second time, Argentina has taken home a “Best Foreign Film” award from the Oscars. Last night, the Academy awarded the statuette to director Juan José Campanella’s “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (The Secret in Her Eyes, subtitled trailer), starring Ricardo Darín and Soledad Villamil (pictured here) in a noirish crime drama with political overtones that takes place mostly in 1999, but incorporates a flashback from the 1970s, before the coup that overthrew civilian authority in 1976. Its critical theme is the legacy of Argentina’s traumatic period of political violence.
Argentina’s only previous Oscar-winning film was director Luis Puenzo’s “The Official Story” (1986), a drama about the infant children of detained and "disappeared" prisoners during the so-called “Proceso de Reorganización Nacional,” as Argentina’s military rulers euphemistically called their reign of terror. Many Argentines disliked that film, in which Norma Aleandro plays an upper-class woman who slowly comes to realize that the origins of her adopted child are open to question, partly because it seemed to imply that the public could be unaware of what was going on around them.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see Campanella’s film, which is one of the most popular in the history of Argentine cinema, but it’s definitely on my short list. I have, however, seen Darín’s co-star, who frequently sings tango at San Telmo’s Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso. If you want an up-close look at a Oscar winner (or at least a major participant in an Oscar-winning project), the Tasso can be the place to do so (though not scheduled there any time very soon, she also sings elsewhere in Buenos Aires).