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A truck driver hauling lumber from the forests of Paraguay to the
markets in Buenos Aires is required by his boss to take a woman and her
child with him. He is none too pleased, but as they travel on the
mysterious 'something' happens. Not much of a story-line on the face of
it, but as we journey with them we see the gradual, almost
imperceptible, emergence of bonds of affection that could be turning to
The tale is told with very little dialogue, few settings (for most of the time we are in the truck cab) and no music. But the effect is enthralling. The acting is uniformly strong; you never doubt that you are watching 'real' people.
Of particular note is that of the three leading actors, the one who puts in the most remarkable of the excellent performances is the infant (played by Nayra Calle Namani, who could not be more than a year old). I would love to know how the director and the adult actors managed to coax this child into behaving as it does. It's magic!
This movie has a simplicity and honesty that is very moving. The faces say so much without words, so unlike the theatrical, fake emotions displayed in the previous movie I saw, The Deep Blue Sea. The images stayed with me well after I had left the theatre.
(Viewed at Screen 3, The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK 04.12.11)
A middle-aged truck driver's long years of hauling lumber from
Asuncion, Paraguay to Buenos Aires is etched on his grizzled face.
Looking as if he hasn't shaved in weeks, maybe months, his body
language displays a passive solitude, as if he has become reconciled to
a world of emptiness. Winner of the Camera d'Or for the best first
feature in Cannes, Pablo Giorgelli's Las Acacias is a work of deceptive
simplicity, a film that captures the essence of human longing mostly
through facial expressions, glances, and gestures. Though it is mainly
shot inside the cab of a truck and has very little dialogue, it never
feels claustrophobic or dull, its natural performances allowing us to
feel as if we are observing events in real time.
The driver, Rubén (German de Silva), is transporting a load of acacia wood to Buenos Aires and has agreed to bring Jacinta (Hebe Duarte), a young Paraguayan woman with him at the request of his boss. When he finds out that the woman, heavily loaded down with suitcases, is also bringing her five-month old daughter, Anahi (Nayra Calle Mamani), he says nothing, but the annoyed look on his face tells the story. Nothing is said for the first thirty minutes as they begin their 1500 kilometer journey, but the silence is not oppressive. Rather, there is simply quiet as the languid motion of the truck sways to the rhythm of the road. Giorgelli said that "I wanted you to feel the fatigue of this long journey," and we do. It is long but never tiring, however.
As the camera reflects on the passing scenery and the images the driver sees through his rear-view mirror, we observe the eyes of the driver, his passenger, and the baby whose look is the most expressive of all. We know nothing of his background or that of the woman's. Ruben's frozen inability to express emotion begins to melt, however, as Jacinta's warmth and the baby's sweet smile awakens in him a sense of his lost humanity. During the course of the trip they begin to open up, slowly revealing their troubled past. He tells Jacinta that he has a son that he hasn't seen in eight years, and she tells him that Anahi has no father.
Jacinta talks to her daughter in the ancient Guarani language and Ruben asks her to translate. When Anahi begins to cry, Rubén quiets her by giving her a cup to play with, and a barely articulated affection emerges. Written by Salvador Roselli, Las Acacias is a film of emotional richness that has no extraneous conversation, enigmatic symbolism, or background music. It is a film where nothing happens and everything happens, that understands that silence alone, in the words of British author Karen Armstrong, "is appropriate for what lies beyond words." A work of deep and abiding humanity, Las Acacias is one of the best films of the year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film "les acacias" has few dialogues, yet it has a mysterious power to rivet the audiences from the beginning to the end. One has to attribute its success to every one of its meticulously crafted shots that is full of meaning and significance. The audiences get to observe and to appreciate the boredom of the life of truck driver but are never bored themselves since it is precisely the kind of boredom that they can emphasize with. As the movie goes along, two new characters, the woman and her baby, are introduced. Yet their presence on the screen is so natural that we can no longer differentiate their lives from the truckdriver's. The director manages to capture the authenticity of human interaction so well that we are not even aware that we are watching a movie with fictitious plot and characters. We feel that we are observing real life unfolding at every moment of the film, which we savor eagerly as we know that it will slip away both for us and the characters in the film. At the end, we can't help but shed a few tears for the brutal separation that will keep the three anonymous strangers apart forever. For me, the movie "les acacias" is one of the most realistic, touching films that I have seen. The height of realism it has achieved, combined with the depth of its meaning make it a film that is not easily surpassed by most modern films of this genre.
Since its inception in the 1960s, the road movie genre has always
represented adventure, debauchery and freedom. One is put in mind of
Bonnie and Clyde charging along an open road leaving bodies and bank
vaults in their wake, or Wyatt and Billy in Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider
blowing joint smoke in the face of conformity.
Argentinean director Pablo Giorgelli's debut feature Las Acacias embodies none of these conventions, but it is a road movie in the most essential sense of the phrase. It is a story about driving from point A to point B: middle-aged truck driver Rubén (Germán de Silva) has been asked by his boss to transport single mother Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) and her five-month-old daughter Anahí (Nayra Calle Mamani) to her cousin's house in Buenos Aires, where she hopes to find work. Other than the occasional stop to refuel and have dinner, it is a full 85 minutes of Rubén just getting on with the job.
In the film's opening half hour we are constantly taunted with the possibility of conventional drama, yet it is dismissed at every turn. Going on Rubén's gruff demeanour, one assumes this may be a slightly dodgy arrangement, in which Jacinta has paid Rubén's boss to help her get out of the country. However, it turns out to be pretty much above board. When they are stopped at the border, one expects them to spout a web of lies to keep the shady truth from the inspectors, but in fact they merely explain themselves sincerely and are let through without any hassle. Similarly, the mystery surrounding Jacinta and Anahí, who she insists 'has no father', is never really explored. At one point, Ruben sees Jacinta crying, but instead of asking her what's wrong and give her the chance to tell her story, he walks away.
After a while you're forced to confront the fact that the film isn't going to diverge at all from the straightforward route it set out to take. At the Sunday morning 'OAPs get in free' screening that I attended, a good few of the older patrons eventually gave up and walked out, unable to bear the boredom anymore and free from the desire to get their money's worth. Yet as gruellingly tedious as Las Acacias can be, if you persist you're gifted with a touching and surprisingly unique film experience.
Unlike the road movie heroes of old, who took to the highway in search of adventure, driving is Ruben's profession and it isolates him from the rest of the world. Constantly hauling lumber from one place to the next, he is deprived of any human contact, and at the beginning he sees Jacinta and Anahí as a mere inconvenience. But in spite of Rubén's detachment and Jacinta's 'I've been hurt before' timidity, the two begin to bond. While the premise is admittedly a little corny, their relationship unfolds in a completely natural way, emanating out of brief conversations and fleeting glances. Of course, this is all far from exciting, but Giorgelli's pared-down style brings a reality and poignancy to the narrative, which is in itself rather captivating.
The most diligent viewer should be forgiven for phasing out from time to time, but boredom seems to be an essential reaction which the film seeks to invoke. Forced to spend an hour-and-a-half imprisoned in Rubén's truck, we become like another passenger, and while your eyes may occasionally wander or you may even nod off, you nevertheless find yourself engrossed in their journey. The film builds softly to a bittersweet ending and having been so closely subjected to this would-be courtship yourself, it is all the more heartrending.
Las Acacias is a road movie about as exciting as a long commute. Nothing really happens and even less is said. But within its static, self- contained world, something pretty remarkable takes place.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A simple story that happens in a couple of days but leaves a lasting impression in our mind. The truck driver and the young lady who accompanies him on the trip are both etched in our memory thanks to the baby who plays a silent but enchanting part. Except for the truck's running noise which is a bit uncomfortable to bear almost all through the movie, there is nothing to complain. The direction is superb and the ending is touching. We leave the theater with a sense of satisfaction, of having seen a good movie where all the characters are so natural that we don't realize that they are acting. A movie well crafted and worth seeing.
Las Acacias begins with the sound of a chainsaw followed by a
lumberjack felling a fairly large tree. Many others fall and they are
then loaded on to a tractor trailer. A man drives alone, lost in his
thoughts, as he carries the cargo through the rural countryside. He
stops at a truck stop to wash up and we can see a scar, curving from
his back shoulder to his ribs. He steps outside to smoke a cigarette
and a young woman approaches with a baby and asks if he is Ruben. He
replies yes and that he was not told about the child. She explains that
it is a misunderstanding and they get into the rig and Ruben seems less
than thrilled with his passengers.
First stop, "welcome to Paraguay" on a sign and he tells her to get out and walk across the border and he will pick them up on the other side. He fills out the necessary paper work and then eats dinner alone. She gets back in and at the next stop the officers ask to see her papers and ask if she has the fathers permission to travel with her offspring. She answers that there is no father. Ruben takes the pair to a diner so that madre can feed little nina.
Back on the road, he finally asks her name, which turns out to be Jacinta and her child is Anani. She asks if he has a family, and at first he says no but then admits to having a son. On route he pays a short visit to his sister and afterwords finds a peaceful lake to sit beside with his passengers where they discuss mundane things like dogs, which they both like, and Anani's age which is five months. There is very little conversation, with most communication being non verbal. Both actors are very good at showing their feelings with facial expressions. As the drive progresses, Ruben grows more and more attached to Jacinta and Anani and as it nears the conclusion I actually cared what happened to them, which is a rare thing in most movies. I do not agree with the negative reviews posted, complaining about the lack of dialogue. Be patient and let the subtlety overtake you, as it did me.
A visual narrative on ordinary folk with a simple but instantly
recognisable theme - loneliness. Argentina of late has produced some
magical road films featuring the lives of everyday characters - and
they are all a joy to watch. It matters not that the dialogue, what
little there is of it, is in Spanish. It could be a silent film or
dubbed in Arabic. The film speaks for itself. It is so well crafted. A
roughneck lorry driver who has travelled the highways of Argentina for
30 years and used to his own space, is ordered by his boss to take one
of his journeys south to Buenos Aries with a passenger - a young mother
and child. Gradually, as the journey progresses and he becomes more and
more frustrated with the noise and demands of the child, but a bond
slowly comes through. This is a very touching film and very well made.
The open road is shown not as dramatic backdrop in panorama - but as a
close-up with each of the characters in the shot. There are a number of
comments made by reviewers here that liken the film to watching paint
dry etc. I think these people went to the cinema expecting another Die
Hard, Steven Seagal, Van Damme, Terminator shoot em up Hollywood
rubbish. Suggest that in future they read the poster before venturing
Cinema isn't just there to entertain (or make money) it is also to educate and generate thought. Well recommended piece of social realism.
In Paolo Giorgelli's quiet film 'Las Acacias', not a lot happens. A truck driver with a load of wood (hence the title) gives a lift, somewhat reluctantly, to a woman with a child. They don't talk a lot, but they're both lonely; by the end of the movie, they decide they'd like to see each other again. And that's it. The film covers a journey of 800 miles through South America, but there are no stunning landscapes on view: just a lot of scenes of two people sitting quietly in a cab. And yet, almost strangely, it doesn't drag: there's a feeling of truthfulness that compensates for the absence of action. In spite of being almost unremarkable by design, it's understated quality tells in the end.
I watched this film last night and I thought it is going to be boring.
It wasn't the case in the end, because I felt like I was part of the
journey, I was in the car and I couldn't hardly wait to get to Buenos
Aires, and once there, I felt like I know my trip mates better. :) The
baby was more than amazing! She's like a little star! I think when
she'll grow up and see her performance she'll have all the reason to be
proud for herself :) An achievement :)
It may seem like the whole film is event-less but I was positively surprised to see that the outcome was better then expected. I can easily imagine this to happen for real... Like I said I only recommend this film only if you're not infected with the holywoodian kind of "film".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Acacia (a.k.a. thorn tree, whistling thorn, wattle) is a genus of
shrubs and trees, often spine-bearing (outside Australia). Its name
derives from the Greek word for thorn. The tree has long been
associated with the shores of the Nile, although its varieties are
The Acacia's reputation precedes its début as film title. It has come to symbolize resurrection and immortality. Egyptian mythology ties the acacia to the tree of life. In Freemasonry it embodies purity, even endurance of the soul. Acacias also fill needs for timber and firewood.
Las Acacias opens as Rubén, a lorry driver, wanders among timber harvesters in Paraguay as they pile high his flatbed with acacia boles. He will cross the Argentine border to take acacia timber to market in Buenos Aires.
At the request of his boss, Rubén will also take Jacinta (of indigenous origin) and, to his surprise, her 8-month-old infant with him. Jacinta has arranged to visit her cousin in Buenos Aires and will probably look for work there.
It's a long trip. Much of the film is shot looking into the lorry cabin through the windows on either side of the flatbed tractor. Dialog is spare and deliberate. On the occasions when Jacinta is asked about the baby's father, for instance, she replies without a trace of bitterness "The baby has no father." Rubén and Jacinta exchange first names. She teaches Rubén some words in her native language. Rubén defers to Jacinta and the baby by smoking outside when the lorry is stopped. She waits patiently, as he does for her when twice he pulls his rig over so that she can phone her cousin.
The cast has only three members one of whom can't yet talk and is prone to incontinence but all are well chosen. It would be hard to imagine other actors who could fill the roles as well.
Rubén and Jacinta, hardened but not deadened, have gracefully resigned themselves to their lots. Each has an incomplete family. Neither seems to be expecting anything special from life. Both have facial contours that reward the repeated scrutiny of tight shots.
Whether by precocious talent or by NSA connivance, Anahí (that's the baby) puts in a stellar performance. Not only does she (the Actor) seem mysteriously disposed to respond on cue flawlessly, but her Character (much like the Actor) also brings out the best in Rubén and Jacinta. It's likely that the two of them would otherwise have passed the trip in awkward silence. (Those who, like me, consider all babies of Anahí's age to be more or less indistinguishable from one another have another think coming.)
Las Acacias extols, without exalting, the quiet delights that arise unbidden in everyday life. Pablo Giorgelli (director and writer) and writer Salvador Roselli acknowledge what is mundane about road culture. And they show us how prosaically enjoyable those encounters could still be in the Argentina of 2011, as they might have been in mythic 1950s America. Despite the vagaries and precariousness of that life, therein lies contentment of a sort. Speech figures far less prominently in it than do glances, gestures, civility, and trust born of experience.
Nothing explodes into flame in this film. No one gets shot or tasered or even spit at. No voices are raised. No one hoodwinks anyone else. No lawyers, no strivers, no moneychangers, no Mr Burnses. No phonies. In other words, another iteration of magical realism.
A hint of resolution comes just before the credits roll. We fade to black full of hope, if not change.
Las Acacias ends as it began: with shots of acacias. The kind that grow and are felled, and the kind that move about on two legs.
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