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A wave of exciting films from Uruguay has hit the festival circuit over the last decade, evidence of a rich film culture previously under-represented on U.S. screens. As with Gigante (2009) and A Useful Life (MFF 2011)—films that share beautiful camerawork from this film’s Arauco Hernández Holz—The Militant focuses on an idiosyncratic loner struggling to find his rhythm with the people around him.
In this case, our protagonist is Ariel, a taciturn student organizer who relocates from Montevideo to his rural hometown Salto after the passing of this father. There, Ariel struggles to connect to the less-disciplined student groups in Salto, who seem big on self-important talk, but small on results. At the same time, he finds that his father left behind him unfinished business both personal and financial—loose ends that have a host of strange characters looking to Ariel for answers he doesn’t have.
With The Militant, Manolo Nieto has delivered a rich concoction that feels at once both otherworldly and familiar. Argentine filmmaker Lisandro Alonso (a guest at MFF 2010 with Liverpool) is a producer here, and his stark aesthetic is reflected in some aspects of this film. But The Militant functions also as a multi-faceted comedy: a wry character study, a good-humored portrait of a quirky community, and a toothy satire of both contemporary protest tactics and the counterculture of the 1960s-70s (albeit a satire that feels simpatico with the rebellious spirit and political goals of its characters). In short, it’s a smart and artistically rewarding slice of global cinema—not to mention one that stands up to the true test of a great film: it will live on in your imagination long after the viewing experience ends. (Eric Allen Hatch)