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Southern District (2009)
"Zona sur" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  11 March 2011 (UK)
6.7
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 210 users  
Reviews: 2 user | 12 critic

For a rich upper-class family locked into their own little world, Bolivia's social changes threaten to burst their bubble.

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Title: Southern District (2009)

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Cast

Cast overview:
Ninón del Castillo ...
Carola
Pascual Loayza ...
Wilson
Nicolás Fernández ...
Andres
Juan Pablo Koria ...
Patricio
Mariana Vargas ...
Bernarda
Viviana Condori ...
Marcelina
Luisa De Urioste ...
Carolina
Glenda Rodríguez ...
Erika
Ximena Alvarez ...
Aunt Rosario
Juana Chuquimia ...
Comadre Remedios
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Storyline

In La Paz -as opposed to many other cities- the rich live below, which is the Southern District. Life goes on without major mishaps in a large house surrounded by a beautiful garden. It is a wonderful world, a great bubble of comfort, where different personal spheres coexist: the mother, along with her three children and the Aymara inhabitants of the house. The drama surfaces slowly, without narrative ploys, observing day-to-day activities until internal and external forces make the bubble burst. The film relates the story of the final days of an upper-class family, at a time when the country is undergoing social changes. Written by Tokyo International Film Festival

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

11 March 2011 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Southern District  »

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| (35 mm version)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In September 2009, the film was selected to represent Bolivia in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2010 Academy Awards. See more »

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User Reviews

 
an interesting experiment cinematically and a good (if not great) character study on the powerful in decline
21 August 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film is one of those 'as time goes by' kind of movies. They're out there, and sometimes they are shot in still images unlike this film (You, the Living comes to mind), but they're not too common and only some can pull it off. It's like we're following everything that the characters are doing, and our own following them, the cinematographer's fascination seeping out over to us, is what makes it fascinating (or at least in theory). In Southern District the director Juan Carlos Valdivia takes his roaming never-stopping camera on to decay and disorder (almost as a rule like Godard's Weekend with the rule of never-stopping the tracking shot during a traffic jam). In this case it's not very quick but a slow burn as a Bolivian family that has money but no power sees itself fleeting in a place where many of their friends question why they stay, and the indigenous servants look on with shaking heads. Only the young Andres is innocent to what's going on.

What made me interested was to see how long Valdivia could keep the shot going, or where he could take it. This is an experiment in mis-en-scene as he tries to find ways to keep the actors blocked within reason - there's not much outside of the surreal flights of fancy with Andres and his mother with wings flying in the sky that is unusual, maybe that's enough - and sometimes a shot will go on as long as five minutes. But his tracking shots are with some taste and style, for example in sex scenes with the younger people of the family he only shows so much nudity and the actors still make it erotic without going too far. It's tough and clever to pull off at the same time.

As for the characters themselves, they are sometimes quite interesting

  • the Mother of the family, who can look like a one-dimensional shrew,


has some depth in unexpected moments and is fully rounded because she does have love and reason amid her upper-class leanings. And the Indians are really fun to watch, especially when the one guy puts on his boss' lotions and cologne's and does a full shower in their bathroom. Other characters like the siblings Patricio and Bernada are less interesting, but then are in their shallow upper-class existence anyway, dominated by sex and gambling and alcohol and other things. But still that camera goes, and we keep watching as, oddly enough not a lot goes on.

For some that may be distracting. It may be too much and call attention to itself that the camera doesn't stop circling (though not too fast, always noticeable) during a dinner scene, or when two characters are just walking in the room). There's an anxious energy to the film that mirrors the anxiety of living this way, and living on the edge of despair that they are doing. We may not feel sympathy for their plight, but if you can buy into what the director's doing the goals are met. It's a little-discovered experiment that has the air of Brian De Palma tackling Luis Bunuel.


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