Dir. Marcos Carnevale (2009, Argentina, 104 mins.)
Screenplay by Marcos Carnevale & Marcela Guerty
Director Marcos Carnevale made a bold choice with Anita. Rather than trying to explain a tragedy by dissecting it, Carnevale elected to explain how a tragedy feels by focusing on a character’s reaction at the expense of the tragic event itself. In the course of this film, we find out very little about the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, the event that sparks the film’s action and permeates the film’s atmosphere. However, as we follow Anita’s journey – made fraught by her Downs Syndrome – through a Buenos Aires reeling in grief, we are exposed to such bewilderment, terror, distrust, and kindness that the particulars of the bombing are irrelevant because we can feel the film’s tragedy without them.
This film’s ensemble is what makes it work. Ordinarily, having important characters appear only for a scene or two is a difficult task, particularly if each character is meant to be fairly developed, and Anita does this many times in a row. As the titular Anita (Alejandra Manzo) stumbles through Buenos Aires, she stumbles in and out of people’s lives – and the calibre of the cast is such that no introductions are needed. The Chinese grandmother is only on screen a handful of times and says very little, but it feels like we know more of her then we really do – and we feel this way about all the characters Anita comes across.
The one problem this film has is a plot hole addressed by the characters several times – why doesn’t anyone who comes across Anita simply call the police? A few of the characters half-heartedly answer this themselves – perhaps the police will simply throw her in a mental hospital? – and the answer seems lame but forgivable. However, Anita’s brother Ariel (Peto Menahem) angrily asks this question himself later in the film, and the film once more feels contrived as a result.
Plot hole aside, Anita is a lovely film with an unorthodox – and resultantly refreshing – look at tragedy. It does not tell us why tragic things happen, but it has something to tell us about the way tragic things feel.