Sunday, April 22, 2012
Artigas - La Redota (orig. La Redota - Una Historia de Artigas) 
IMDb listing -
Artigas - La Redota (orig. La Redota - Una Historia de Artigas) is a film directed and co-written by Uruguayan film-maker César Charlone along with Pablo Vierci about Uruguayan "founding father" / national hero José Gervasio Artigas (played int he film by Jorge Esmoris) The film played recently at the 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival.
The movie begins in 1884, nearly 35 years after Artigas' death with Uruguayan painter Blanes (played in the film by Yamandú Cruz) commissioned by the then Uruguayan "powers that be" to paint a heroic portrait of Artigas, who had been a homegrown revolutionary at a time when whole region was in flux -- Argentina to the south and west had just won its independence; in face of Napoleonic invasion, the Portuguese King had fled to Brazil to start a Portuguese empire to the north, and Montevideo which eventually became Uruguay's capital remained the last bastion of imperial Spanish presence in southeastern South America.
But precisely because Artigas was a homegrown revolutionary, leading a band of "miserable ones" composed of Spanish speaking frontiersmen and still Guarani speaking natives with ties to their kin in Paraguay, Blanes' task was not easy. The "powers that be" would like a portrait of a "heroic leader" of the Enlightenment mold (a George Washington or Simon Bolivar). Yet, Artigas and especially the band of supporters that grew around him looked more like the band that grew around Pancho Villa in Mexico a few decades after Blanes finished his work. How to give the "Powers that Be" what they want and yet be true to oneself and to the historical record? That is what this film is about. Blanes does come up with a solution but it's not what one would necessarily expect.
As a historical period piece, I found the film to be well done. Further, I was appreciative to the Chicago Latino Film Festival as well as to the makers of this film for the opportunity to learn something about Uruguay. I always suspected that there was probably some connection between Uruguay and Paraguay simply because of the similarity in their names. Yet the two countries are quite distant from each other. This film helped explain to me the connection as well as the rather difficult circumstances in which Uruguay came to be -- surrounded on all sides (Argentina to the South, Brazil to the North and even Spain across the Sea to the East) by rather powerful neighbors.
So all in all, this was a satisfying historical film that teaches its viewers something about a country and a leader that most people outside of Uruguay would probably not know. And yet the problem that Blanes faced in making the portrait of Artigas is one that many artists and historians across the world have faced. So the story here is about Blanes, Artigas and Uruguay, but it is also about more than just about Blanes, Artigas and Uruguay. It's story is bigger than that. Good job!
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