The place in the title is Paraje Los Pereyra, in the northern Argentine province of El Chaco, in the middle of the second largest forested region in South America after the Amazon. In Spanish, "paraje" is somewhat less than a village; in fact, Los Pereyra is just an aggregate of small plots of land owned (or leased) by families that eke out a meager living from the soil. The climate is tropical. Children attend an elementary school with three teachers, not enough for having all grades in separate rooms. Those that want to continue their education beyond grade school must do so in Resistencia, the capital of the province, in another provincial capital or in Buenos Aires 1000 kilometers away, a near impossibility due to the meager resources of the families.
Northlands is a private, expensive bilingual school in Buenos Aires founded in 1920 by two British ladies. It is located in the wealthy suburb of Olivos and is at present co-educational but it was women-only the year this documentary was filmed. Among its former students is Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. Several exclusive private schools in Buenos Aires have programs whereby groups of students spend several days in small rural schools interacting with the school itself and with the local population. This is what connects Northlands and Los Pereyra; the visiting high school girls are called "Las Madrinas" (the Godmothers). Some of these programs are one-time-only; the Northlands-Los Pereyra program was continued for several years until 2008.
This seems to be the first directorial effort by Andrés Livov-Macklin. It is a pure documentary; it shows facts without drawing conclusions. For instance, one witnesses the easy friendships between Argentines of very different social levels; whether these friendships are real and will survive time and distance is left to the viewer. I was stricken by the dignity and even elegance of the local children's clothes, in spite of their families' meager resources, and by the beauty of the children themselves, most of them descendants of local Toba Indians and European immigrants.
This is an excellent documentary. Interestingly, it has been supported by the National Film Board of Canada, which was also involved in Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein's The Take (2004), one of the best documentaries about the sequels of Argentina's 2001 economic meltdown (Lewis is mentioned in the final credits ).
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