In an atmosphere filled with fear and suspicion, Infancia Clandestina by Benjamin Avela, relays the life a child, who comes from a family of Montoneros, a movement against the then Argentinian military dictatorship.
A memoir of the filmmaker’s childhood, the feature film’s events are intimate and real, offering insight into a child’s immense pressure to lead a a normal childhood under cover.
His family, which lived in exile in Cuba, returned back to Argentina under fake identities, giving young Juan the name Ernesto.
Despite the film’s rough topic, the main focus is the young boy’s love story with a girl in his school, which divides the film into two contrasting stories; one is a magical childhood love affair, and the other a tough domestic life dominated by politics, where heated debates regarding the family’s future are overheard from the other side of the door.
It was interesting to see the young boy’s growing awareness of matters of love go hand in hand with his political awareness.
The love story between the children had a somewhat surrealist touch because of the locations chosen, which in a way mirrored the boy’s need for coping.
Some of the locations included, the house of mirrors at an amusement park or a discarded and battered car in the middle of the woods.
The relationship between the young boy and his uncle was also interesting. The uncle was the guiding figure, who was taking different measures, even fighting against the will of the boy’s father, to make him lead a normal childhood under the circumstances he was living in.
This could be clearly seen in a sequence, where there was a debate whether to hold for the kid a ‘fake’ birthday party or not. The uncle was also the one giving him advice in the matters of love.
Though stylized in some parts, the film sometimes overdoes it with the hand held camera. However, dream sequences in the film, portrayed abstractly, suggested some mastery with the tool.
The soundtrack was overly dominant, which only worked in the parts, where film’s characters were singing.
Acting was minimal in a story that could have easily fell for melodrama.
The film was screened at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section.