NYFF Spotlight: Invasión
Posted by Michael Gibbons on 9.16.2011
Why you should see it:
This forgotten Latin American classic is both thrilling and stylish, and it marks the first work conceived for cinema by the great Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares. The film takes place in the fictional city of Aquiléa (a thinly disguised Buenos Aires), which is under siege from sinister forces, forcing a group of men must come up with a strategy for defense. This updating of The Iliad is an effortless fusion of film styles and genres, from surrealism to police action movies.
Invasión came out in 1969 to critical acclaim, but it was a box office failure. It was practically forgotten until a re-edited version came out on DVD in 2008.
Director Hugo Santiago explains how the film became banned in Argentina and was eventually rediscovered decades later: “In Argentina, the official film critic found it impossible to understand. They didn’t tell it too loud because it was Borges and Casares but they talked about a fantasy universe and things like that… When the TV channel that had put money in the film decided to broadcast it, they found out it had been banned. The army was almost controlling the country. The film was banned and reels were stolen from the laboratory. This film, which was acclaimed by the whole world critic, was, five years later, banned by military forces as a subversive film. They started to grasped things that weren’t there when we made it. Ten years after the release of the film, a French critic wrote a newspaper article in which he listed things he had seen during those years, like the stadiums used as prisons and many other things like that in Argentina, Chile or even Korea, and he said ”I saw all those things in 1969, in a film called Invasión.”
About the restoration
“Eight reels of the original negative were stolen, no new print could be made. Such was the situation until 2000, when, thanks to Pierre André Boutang and the people of Arte Channel, we could restore the film. I took the two reels left -forty minutes of the film-, I found two good prints and, with cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich, we worked to find again the density and the contrasts of the original reels.” - Hugo Santiago
Born in Buenos Aires in 1939, Hugo Santiago has lived in France since 1959 and began working in film as assistant director to Robert Bresson. Invasión was his first feature film, based on an idea by the writers Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges, who he also collaborated with on Les Aultres (1974). In 1979 he completed Écoute voir with Catherine Deneuve, and in 1986 returned to film in Argentina with Les Troittoirs de Saturne. His most recent film is Loup de la côte Ouest, made in 2002.
What the NYFF programmers say:
"Invasion is a film by Hugo Santiago, an Argentine who moved to Paris in the late 1950s and worked as an assistant for many years to Robert Bresson. It is his first film and he returned to Argentina to make it, and it also happens to be the first film that the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges conceived specifically for the cinema. Borges had been adapted to the cinema several times before and had worked on a screenplay for one Argentine film in the early 1950s based on one of his short stories, but this was the first project he conceived directly for film. It is a remarkable work and, in my opinion, one of the lost treasures of Latin American cinema. It is a very Borgesian story about a city under siege and a group of people who come together to resist, although you’re not sure it is possible to resist, and it’s shot in a very oblique style. We are pleased the film has just been restored and we’re very happy to have it in the festival." - Richard Peña, Program Director