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BOLIVIA(director/writer: Adrián Caetano; screenwriter: story by Romina Lafranchini; cinematographer: Julián Apezteguia; editors: Santiago Ricci/Lucas Scavino; music: Los Kjarkas; cast: Freddy Flores (Freddy Flores), Rosa Sánchez (Rosa Sánchez), Oscar Bertea (Oso), Enrique Liporace (Enrique Galmes), Marcelo Videla (Marcelo), Héctor Anglada (Salesman), Alberto Mercado (Mercado); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roberto Ferro; New Yorker Films; 2001-Argentina-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“A compelling parable told in a realistic manner about a gentle illegal immigrant from Bolivia.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 33-year-old Uruguayan-born but now living in Argentina director, Israel Adrián Caetano, dazzles us with his debut feature. It’s a compelling parable told in a realistic manner about a gentle illegal immigrant from Bolivia, Freddy Flores (Freddy Flores), who lands a job as a cook in a Buenos Aires greasy spoon to support his wife and three daughters back home. He can’t find work in his impoverished country when Yankee drug enforcement officers burn down the fields where he worked picking fruit and cocoa.

It’s filmed in a grainy black-and-white, and shot almost entirely in the dumpy café that caters to taxi drivers, antagonistic complainers, and low end of the scale working-class people. The wary boss, Enrique Galmes (Enrique Liporace), overbearingly rules over his staff of two, both immigrants he’s hired for peanuts. The newly hired Freddy works the grill, while Rosa Sánchez (Rosa Sánchez) is the sexy waitress for the last year. She’s half-Paraguayan, and has an expertise in handling passes made at her from the customers (the boss is both protective and exploitative of her). The café patrons express their fervent nationalism and prejudices against all foreigners, and treat Freddy with disrespect. The customers vary from druggies, racists (referring to Paraguayans, Uruguayans, and Bolivians as “niggers”), homosexuals, hostile drunks, or those in debt. There’s turmoil in their lives that’s heightened because of the poor Argentina economy causing vast unemployment and a severe recession. It seems odd that the Bolivian is coming to this poverty-stricken country to make a living, a country where its natives are having difficulty surviving and are in no mood to accept foreigners taking away the few jobs left.

Romina Lafranchini’s plotless and sparse script adequately captures the gritty everyday struggles that lead to both the police hassling Freddy because he doesn’t have a work permit and the customers because they resent him as a dark skinned foreigner. It’s a frightening and hard-hitting look at the marginalized (an old story that brings out nothing new, but tells its tale with conviction and force), who are caught in a dark urban setting as they try to make human contact and maintain some kind of civility until they reach their boiling point and explode with violence. The film is handled like a ticking time-bomb.

It’s a powerful neo-realistic look at the faceless masses, that takes Freddy’s sad face as the human face for the disenfranchised all over the world. His face is the one the world rarely sees, even in movies, the one who’s ill-prepared and powerless to deal with the invisible forces that control his life and bring about such human tragedy.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”