Infancia Clandestina is one of the more realistic and politically accurate films in the ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival. It is thrilling and exhilarating but at the same time tells the sweet story of new beginnings and the power of relationships of all kinds from the perspective of a young Argentinean boy. The whole film is told through the eyes of Juan, 12 years old, as his family unite in a battle for their beliefs as activists against political injustice. Juan finds his own battles in taking responsibility and entering a new world of adolescents and emotions he has not felt before.
The film boasts simple but striking animation which helps to portray the traumatic experiences suffered by Juan and many others during unrest in the 1970s, through flashing imagery and sketchy illustrations. All the while adding to the childlike element of the story in being unable to explain the monstrosities which were occurring in front of people’s unsuspecting eyes.
The real beauty of the film lies in the contrasts made both between the serenity of the Argentinean setting and the heavy atmosphere which the family conceal within their home and also the seemingly complex challenges facing a 12 year old boy and the real perilous danger which hangs over their heads at all times. The beautiful Argentinean locations with their picturesque neighbourhoods and flourishing landscapes seem like the last place to be housing a political uprising, carefully hidden behind the facade of normal family life. When put in parallel, the juvenile struggles that Juan faces, in comparison to his family’s very real and fragile situation reminds the viewer that we are all fighting a battle, whether it be for political freedom or for our first romance, and that each matter is significant and indicative in its own right.
Despite the turbulence of Juan’s family situation, Infancia Clandestina still manages to portray the strong bonds between family and friends. From the subtle comedy between brothers and the heartbreaking anxiety between mother and daughter, to the curious and endearing story of young love, we see that our feelings for those around us are amplified in tense and strenuous times.
Director Benjamín Ávila uses intimately tight shots of all of the characters, creating a personal connection between the camera and their emotions, so that the viewer feels drawn in and utterly consumed by what they see on the screen. This helps us to understand the complexities experienced during the alienation of growing up, as well as the mounting pressure of such an unconventional and precarious family, to the point where neither Juan nor those around him can stand the building tension which leads to an escalation of life changing proportions.
With only an unsatisfactory and abrupt ending to pull it down, this film offers a fresh and original take on adolescents and has done well to escape the clichéd portrayals of young people and the tempest which they face.
Review by BFI Film Academy participant, Liza Vul (March ’13)