Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

64. Movies, Holidays, Mothers, Motos (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Still here in Buenos Aires, preparing papers for my business. Every day it's one thing taken off the todo list, but it seems like something new gets added every day too. For two months I've been doing this, hopefully only about another 2 or 3 weeks left. I've been saying that to myself (and my girlfriend) for a while now.

Buenos Aires translated means "Good Airs". Which is kind of ironic for me since I've had constant breathing problems since I've been here. I had asthma as a kid but not for years since, until I came here. I don't know why, the city's not too polluted (apart from the bus exhausts), maybe it's the humidity or something. As soon as I leave BA I'm fine again, but whenever I'm here I'm on the asthma drugs every day.

Summer holiday vacations here are very systematic. It seems that 2 weeks vacation a year is universal, and everyone takes their turn around January and February. So on Jan 1 bus stations, airports, and roads are packed as about a quarter of the population leaves the city for their vacations. Everything gets busy again (roads, airports, buses etc) as they all return sun-tanned and chilled out on Jan 15, when another quarter leaves. Feb 1 the same. Feb 15 the same.

Around BA - 03 - Filming
Filming a scene with a "blind" actor in the streets of BA

The BA City Council has done a good job keeping those of us stuck in the city entertained, with a bunch of free concerts, shows, and movies for summer '06. Near where I'm living they've erected an open air cinema and every weekend they've been screening free Argentine movies, most of which I've seen and enjoyed. And happily, I can understand most of the dialogue as they don't have English subtitles. Argentina has a thriving film scene, at least once a week I'll see trucks, crew etc filming a scene in the streets.

Around BA - 02 - Cine Libre Aire
Open-air cinema

Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens) is still my favourite Argentine movie. I first saw this on DVD in Sydney. The story of a couple of con-artists.

Whisky Romeo ZulĂș is the autobiographical(!) true-story movie about an Argentine pilot who becaume a whistle-blower regarding airline safety in Argentina. The title refers to the callsign of a plane that crashed on takeoff in Buenos Aires in '99. What makes it remarkable is it's autobiographical - the pilot himself write, directed and acted in the film.

Iluminados por el Fuego (Illuminated by the fire) is an Argentine war-movie regarding the Falklands War, which Argentina lost to Britain in the early 80s. For a war movie it lacked grit and I didn't really like it.

La dignidad de los nadies (The dignity of the nobodys) is a great documentary showing that poverty still exists in Argentina.

El aura is from the same director and protagonist as Nueve Reinas so I had high expectations, it was OK but I didn't really like the ending.

Tiempo de Valientes (Time of the Brave?) is a great cop-buddy movie which I enjoyed.

I should also mention Diarios de Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries), the story of Che Guevara's ride through South America before he became a revolutionary. I read the book a few years ago when I was into motorbikes and saw the pick in the cinema in NZ in January 05. I got to see it again on a bus ride here. As a movie I thought it a bit boring, but I enjoyed it for the scenery as I'd been to many of the places he goes to.

Another free event was a concert put on by Vicentico, lead singer of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, one of my favourite Argentine bands. Media reports said 50,000 turned up.

Vicentico - 01 -
Vicentico on stage

Meanwhile, the media here has been all over the "robbery of the century", which happened in early January. The usual story, armed robbers entered the Banco Rio and took hostages. But while one of them was buying time with the hostage negotiations with the Police outside, releasing hostages in exchange for food, etc, the rest were breaking open the safe-deposit boxes inside. See, Argentines still don't trust banks with their savings so safe-deposit boxes filled with US Dollars are the norm. When the Police eventually stormed the bank they found the robbers had all escaped through a pre-made tunnel and made their way through the sewer system to a nearby river. A clean getaway with no shots fired - the perfect crime. So far no one arrested. The insurance value of the 145 safety-deposit boxes they opened is around US$7m, plus the US$200,000 the bank had in the safe.

Another crime in the spotlight here is "the killing of Ariel" in Southern Brazil. South Brazil is a popular summer destination and in some towns as much as 90% of the tourists are Argentine. One night a group of young Argentine guys had a brawl and a bystander was killed - Ariel, another Argentine. Now, the killing of a young guy in a brawl isn't uncommon either but what's interesting is that 2 of the suspects are supposedly from a powerful family, which sadly could mean they're likely to get away with it. However, the media have been all over the story to make sure the suspects don't buy or bribe their way out of justice.

Meanwhile most of the country are happy about reporting of Foot and Mouth disease in some cattle in the north of the country, as it means Argentine Beef is being blacklisted by other countries. So why are they happy? Because it should mean lower beef prices for domestic consumers in the supermarkets! Kinda funny, something that would kill the NZ economy is a cause for celebration here.

One thing I finally got around to doing the other week was head down to Plaza de Mayo on a Thursday afternoon to see the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo do their weekly protest. It was lucky I went as the protest I saw was their 1500th and last, as the Mothers feel that the current government is no longer indifferent to the fate of the Dirty War missing.

Plaza Madres - 03 - Pyramid marchers
Marching around the Plaza for the last time

I've been watching more and more TV lately, probably because I can understand the language now. As a language learner, it's much easier to understand someone when they're speaking to you rather than to an audience of native speakers. The other Sunday morning I came across El Chapulin Colorado (The Red Grasshopper). I felt like I'd hit the Latin American culture jackpot as I'd finally come across the inspiration for the Bumblebee Man on the Simpsons. As silly as it sounds, the Bumblebee Man is about the only time I'd hear Spanish being spoken on TV back home.

Chapulin Colorado - 02
El Chapulin

Final piece of randomness for today: motorcycle helmets. Argentina does have a helmet law, but I'm not sure how strict the wording of the law is as it seems only about half of the riders around BA wear a helmet - on their heads. Much more common is on the elbow.

BA Motos - 06 - Elbow
Elbow protector

BA Motos - 04 - Tank
This guy's wearing his on his tank

BA Motos - 01 - Forehead
The forehead's also a good look


  • Those free concerts would be cool. The Argentines love their music, so being in a crowd of 50,000 must have been fun.

    What do you think of Mercedes Sosa? I'd love to see her live.

    By Blogger Nasty McFly, at 8:05 AM  

  • Hey Nasty

    Well, media reports said 50,000 but you know how Argentines like to exagerrate - my own estimate was about 20,000. They certainly sungalong with all the words when he played "Vasos Vacios" and a couple of other Cadillacs classics. And the crowd wouldn't let him leave until he'd played Yo No Me Sentaria En Tu Mesa, singing the oh-oh chorus in the gaps between songs. So he played an encore, only to get called back for another and another, about 4 times.

    Dude, I know nothing of Mercedes Sosa's music. Only that she's been in the media lately for having recovered from near death last year due to obesity problems.


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 8:37 AM  

  • So do they have Hollywood movies with over-dubbing or with english sub-titles?
    Any low release movies (like Fastest Indian or River Queen) for a taste of home?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:06 PM  

  • Normally the Hollywood movies in the cinemas here are in English with Spanish subtitles. For the really big releases they'll sometimes have a Spanish over-dubbed version too, but normally it's subtitles.

    On the cable TV they have both Spanish subtitles and overdubs, but on free TV (which is all we have at home) it's all overdubbed. I don't mind the overdubs as I get to learn new words - although most swear words don't translate so they'll use things like demonios! (demons) for "hell", which no one uses here.

    The big annoying thing with the overdubs is they'll often only have one guy doing all the male parts, so you can't just listen to the movie, so you have to watch to see which character's talking!


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 6:03 AM  

  • So long since you wrote the last time!! I like a lot your blog because you post very nice pics of Argentina and explain a lot of this country.
    I am from Argentina but I am living in Europe since 2001.
    In november I added you to my links and I visit you often.
    Sorry about my english. It is not very good :))
    Best regards from AnavĂ­

    By Blogger Anavi, at 2:31 PM  

  • Great blog, informative and entertaining. You mention both the robbery of the century and a number of films in this entry, but not the highly acclaimed "Plata Quemada", set in BsAs about a based-on-a-true-story heist that took place in the 60's. I can't confirm if it was an argentine-produced film, but worth watching. If you happen to be an extreme homophobe, perhaps its not for you, as it has a homo-erotic theme.

    Future BsAs biz owner, Ronald

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 AM  

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