It’s a fully in-person edition for the 2nd ARCA International Festival of Films on Arts in Uruguay as it shakes off the pandemic blues that saw some guest cancellations last year.
“Despite the peak COVID situation last January, we had approximately 5,000 attendees,” says fest director Mercedes Sader, who pointed out that the event’s outdoor screenings were ideal for the times.
Running Jan. 2-7 this year, ARCA kicked off in 2022 to coincide with the inauguration of the coastal resort town’s first contemporary art museum, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Atchugarry (MACA). The 75,000 sq. ft. museum designed by architect Carlos Ott commands vistas of a 99-acre sculpture park and sweeping grounds that include an outdoor amphitheater, a smaller outdoor theatre for video art screenings, forests and a helipad. The museum houses Cine MACA, an indoor theatre with a 100-seat capacity.
“We learned last year how to integrate the outdoor screenings in this spectacular setting,” says co-executive director, Andres Varela.
“We moved the dates forward to Jan. 2 because this area’s year-round population of 12,000 to 15,000 expands to 450,000 at this time [summer], which is unique in Uruguay,” notes Sebastián Bendarik, ARCA co-executive director and director of Cine MACA.
ARCA opens with the out-of-competition world premiere of “The Children of the Mountain” (“Los Hijos de la Montaña”), produced by Bendarik and Varela’s Coral Cine. Directed by Sader, the docu explores the life and work of Uruguayan sculptor Pablo Atchugarry whose foundation is the principal sponsor and driving force behind the festival.
“The first edition was truly extraordinary, and with this second edition, we reaffirm that with continuity and perseverance, the festival will further grow and expand its reach in the best way possible,” says Atchugarry.
Curated by programmer Sergio Fant, a selection of 15 art-themed features, mostly docus with one animated pic and one fiction among them, will compete for the best film award. The winner takes home a sculpture, the ARCA, expressly designed and cast in bronze by Atchugarry from his original Carrara marble sculpture.
Uruguayan director and DoP César Charlone, member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a best cinematography Oscar nominee for his work in Fernando Meirelles’ seminal “City of God,” will select the winner of this year’s edition. “Each year, we choose one person whose qualifications as a juror are undisputed,” Sader points out.
Charlone, whose other credits include “The Constant Gardener,” “The Two Popes” and Spike Lee’s “Sucker Free City,” has been working as the DoP on Varela’s “The Child Who Dreamt” (“L’ Enfant qui reve”) about artist Philippe Genty, which is expected to be ready by the end of 2023.
The festival closes with the most mainstream of the titles, period drama “Caravaggio’s Shadow”by helmer-scribe-actor Michele Placido. “A lot of families come to closing night so we wanted the most commercially appealing film to close the festival,” said Sader.
Most of the other films in the lineup are ostensibly more auteur, intimate works, many of them by women directors. Irene M. Borrego’s “The Visit and A Secret Garden” explores the fate of women artists in Spain, capturing in old age once celebrated but now forgotten Spanish painter Isabel Santaló without showing a single painting, noted Sader.
Allison Otto’s “The Thief Collector” shows how truth is often stranger than fiction.
Sophie Bruneau’s “Cezanne” takes a minimalist look at the work of the revolutionary French painter through a visit to his atelier in Aix-en-Provence.
Amelie Van Elmbt and Maya Duverdier’s “Dreaming Walls” casts a last look at the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York as it’s converted into a luxury hotel.
Two talks have been programmed in keeping with the festival’s link to art, with New York-based curator and writer Barbara London, who was forced to cancel last year, holding forth Jan. 5 on ‘Experimentation in the field of Moving Image’ where she will discuss her work in overseeing the video collection and exhibition programs at MoMA.
On Jan. 3, art historian and curator Veronica Flom, director of the Uruguay-based Ama Amoedo Foundation, will discuss the non-profit’s objectives to promote the presence of Latin American artists worldwide and magnify their visibility on the global art scene.
ARCA 2023 Main Competition Lineup:
“The Children of the Mountain,” (Mercedes Sader, Uruguay, Opening Film, out of competition)
“An Imaginary Land,” (Juan Solanas, Uruguay, France)
“Caravaggio’s Shadow,” (Michele Placido, Italy, France)
“Cézanne,” (Sophie Bruneau, Belgium)
“Charlotte,” (Eric Warin, Tahir Rana, Canada)
“Dreaming Walls,” (Amélie van Elmbt, Maya Duverdier, Belgium, France, Sweden, Netherlands)
“Folon,” (Gaetan Saint-Remy, Belgium)
“Goya, Carriere and the Ghost of Buñuel,” (José Luis Linares-Lopez, France, Spain, Portugal)
“Historjà – Stygn För Sápma,” (Thomas Jackson, Sweden)
“Infinito, L’Universo di Luigi Ghirri,” (Matteo Parisini, Italy)
“Inside the Uffizi,” (Corinna Belz, Enrique Sánchez Lansch, Germany)
“Kobra: Auto-Retrato,” (Lina Chamie, Brazil)
“Plan para Buenos Aires,” (Gerardo Panero, Argentina)
“Rubens Gerchman: The King of Kitsch,” (Pedro Rossi, Brazil)
“The Thief Collector,” (Allison Otto, U.S.)
“The Visit and A Secret Garden,” (Irene M. Borrego, Spain, Portugal)