Las Acacias


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
05 Monday 05th December 2011

New on-the-road Argentinian film Las Acacias, on the other hand, is anything but. Filmmaker Pablo Giorgelli crafts a simple and poignant tale on his directorial debut that never relies on the travel soundtrack as a crutch and makes me wonder whether baby actors can get nominated for Oscars too.

Okay, I might be half-joking about the baby but the film’s strength undeniably comes from the cast’s cohesion. While hunting for actresses to play Jacinta, single mother to aforementioned five-month old baby Anahí (played by Nayra Calle Mamani), Giorgelli stumbled across Hebe Duarte. Her performance throughout at no point lets on that she has no background in acting whatsoever, and was actually assisting with the audition process behind the scenes.

Her character sits central to the tale, looking for a ride across the border from Paraguay to Buenos Aires in Argentina in order to visit her cousin. It’s all we’re ever told, though her bundle of carry-alls suggests that perhaps the journey leads toward a more permanent destination than she lets on at border control.

Rubén, our lonely lorry driver played by Germán de Silva, contrasts in personality with Jacinta in almost every way. We’re introduced to him amidst the rolling, dusty streets of what we can only assume is one of Paraguay’s border towns.

As is so often the case with this film, the scene in which we first encounter him rumbles and rolls along to the soundtrack of his humming and grunting truck, punctuated only by the crackle and hissing burn of a cigarette he lights on the road-side. Once he meets Jacinta, and finds himself faced with a baby he hadn’t been told even existed, their adventure and slow-burning friendship begins.

As their journey winds along, we pick up the tiny morsels of his past that Rubén allows himself to share with Jacinta, all the while being charmed by Anahí’s massive eyes and impeccably-timed giggles.

Though there was no doubt an entire team out of view, leaning over the camera and gesticulating or pulling faces to pull a smile or chuckle from Calle Mamani, this baby becomes the anchor that pulls the two protagonists towards one another. And not in some majorly soppy way. Just in the way that any really cute child can often get the most surprising lone wolves to melt and go all gooey.

Littered with sparse dialogue and even less music, Las Acacias shows us the inner workings of one specific and short-term connection between two adults left marooned by those they once loved. Giorgelli subtly draws parallels between Jacinta and Rubén’s characters without at any point spoonfeeding overly sentimental scenarios to the viewer. And de Silva’s nuanced portrayal of the solitary trucker is so well-delivered that every hesitation and cringe-worthy insecurity never seems over-acted.

A beautiful and touching film overall, that you should go see for some pensive and introspective viewing.


Las Acacias is out now in theatres around the country.

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