Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Child’s Hope (A Placed Called Los Pereyra at the Projection Booth)

"A very honest, strong film. I liked the vision of this film very much." - Carlos Reygadas on A Place Called Los Pereyra

The documentary A Place Called Los Pereyra, which is directed by Andrés Livov-Macklin (who was born in Buenos Aires, and is mostly known for short films) and produced by Hugh Gibson and Peter Starr, is about the elementary school 959 in the rural community of Los Pereyra, in the Tucumán Province, Argentina. A Place Called Los Pereyra is like a mixture between two films: the classroom drama Monsieur Lazhar, which is about an elementary school teacher guiding a group of young and impressionable students; and the documentary-fiction hybrid Alamar, a naturalistic cinéma vérité look at a Mexican father teaching his son how to fish in the coral reef.

These two films give a sense of what A Place Called Los Pereyra is like. But the film is different from these other works and needs to be further discussed.

Los Pereyra is located east of the Tucumán Province, which is known for its Gran Chaco flatlands. The documentary refers to the area as the El Impenetrable, “the second largest forested region in South America after the Amazon.” A Place Called Los Pereyra shows a town without electricity or modern day appliances. It paints a portrait of a culturally and geographically isolated location that hardly has any information online.

In the community of Los Pereyra there are families and children. The children either stay at home where they help their parents at their farms, or they go to school with the hope of later pursuing their education elsewhere. A Place Called Los Pereyra centers on a group of high school girls from an expensive all-girl private school in Buenos Aires, who are known as the godmothers. The young godmothers are part of an annual charitable mission from Buenos Aires that provides goods and medical attention to the people of the area. It is these godmothers that were the inspiration for A Place Called Los Pereyra. One of Livov-Macklin’s friends went to this school in Buenos Aires, and shared with him the experience of the trips. Livov-Macklin was struck by both the disparity between the two groups and the kindness of their interactions.

These godmothers are a great asset to the community, and their arrival seems much anticipated. They show to the kids the possibilities that lie outside of Los Pereyra. As well they emphasize education, they bring them new toys and they perform medical check-ups. Fun and nice anecdotes from A Place Called Los Pereyra includes: the girls describing contraception, you see the boys playing with a new soccer ball, the girls tease one of the older boys, they do math equations where they distribute candy, they bring them to a zoo, and they even make one of the boys a nice birthday cake. But they are only there for a short amount time, and who knows when, and if, they are ever going to come back?

As Los Pereyra is over one-thousand kilometers away from the city of Buenos Aires, one of the subjects of the film is the Argentinean rural/urban divide. The teacher continuously brings up to these children that if they want a better future for themselves they will need to go to Buenos Aires to study. The teacher says, “You know that as people grow up, they want to do something with their lives. They dream of becoming something.” Concluding, “Nothing is difficult, if you’re willing to do it.”

A Place Called Los Pereyra will be screening at the Projection Booth from May 11th to the 17th.  And there will be a special event on Friday May 11th with a cocktail reception and post-screening discussion with producer Hugh Gibson and film critic Adam Nayman (The Grid, Cinema Scope).

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