Irish Film Institute -WHITE ELEPHANT



110 minutes, Argentina-Spain-France, 2012, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

The challenge of retaining your faith in the face of everyday poverty, suffering and injustice provides a compelling core to this latest from brilliant Argentinian director Pablo Trapero. Lion’s Den and Carancho displayed his skill at fusing social issues with gripping thriller narratives, and here adapts to the daunting environs of a real-life shantytown in Buenos Aires, surrounding the massive empty shell of an unfinished hospital – a monument to failed good intentions.

Ricardo Darín, South America’s great screen icon, exudes troubled decency as the embattled priest caught between church officialdom and his hardscrabble flock, while the arrival of Jérémie Renier’s big-hearted but impetuous Belgian missionary only escalates the temperature of the neighbourhood drugs war.

Examining the gnarly realities of compassion, the film is resolutely fair-minded towards the local residents who took part in its production, and adamantly eschews easy answers in pondering the conundrum of making a difference. The brooding Michael Nyman score is used with sparing effectiveness. (Notes by Trevor Johnson.)

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