Following a strong 2011 festival run, picking up the Camera d’Or prize at Cannes and the Sutherland Trophy at the BFI London Film Festival, Argentinian director Pablo Giorgelli’s delicate road movie Las Acacias (2011) comes to DVD this week, losing none of the heartfelt appeal and unspoken warmth of its cinematic incarnation.
Effectively a chamber piece situated in a truck driver’s compact cabin, Giorgelli’s debut revolves around the trio of solitary haulier Rubén (Germán de Silva), single mother Jacinta (Monica Coca) and her adorable five-month-old daughter Anahí (Hebe Duarte). Under instructions from his boss, Rubén reluctantly takes up the task of escorting the young family from Asunción del Paraguay to Argentinian metropolis Buenos Aires, in addition to a hefty cargo of lumber. Despite early reservations, Rubén quickly warms to his passengers, particularly the ever-fascinated Anahí.
Yet again, world cinema has provided audiences with a prime example of how to tell an affecting, moving story with next-to-no dialogue and a very simple premise – a journey from A to B. Vital to Las Acacias’ success are the three central performances, with each actor able to convey a multitude of complex thoughts and feelings without the need for redundant dialogue or cumbersome exposition. All we need understand is that Jacinta and her young daughter are looking to start again, leaving whatever tragedy may have befallen them back in their native Paraguay for a new start in Buenos Aires.
Also crucial in terms of audience engagement is the film’s cinematography, and it’s certainly not hard to imagine why the 2011 Cannes jury saw fit to reward the sterling efforts of DoP Diego Poleri. His South America is one of gas stations and roadside shacks, where haulier’s eke out their lonely, nomadic existence. Thus Rubén, our stoic, Eastwood-esque protagonist finds solace with his human cargo, revealing his own familial strife (he has a son that he rarely sees; we know nothing of the mother) and eventually reaching out to Jacinta for friendship as they come to the end of their cross-country voyage.
Las Acacias is a extremely well-executed, contemporary testament to the simplistic, universal language of cinema, crossing boundaries of nationality, race and circumstance, here mirroring its central characters. Having impressed with this assured debut, its director Giorgelli certainly looks like one to watch.