Dir: Mercedes Garcia Guevara. Argentina. 1999. 87 mins.
Prod: Mercedes Garcia Guevara. Int'l sales: Tequila Gang (00 207 290 0773). Exec prod: Diego Dubcovsky. Scr: Mercedes Garcia Guevara. DoP: Esteban Sapir. Ed: Alejandro Brodersohn. Mus: Martin Bauer. Main cast: Paolo Krum, Juan Palomino, Pablo Cedron, Maria Jose Gabin, Laura Melillo.
A consistently intriguing fusion of road movie and melodrama, Hidden River marks an impressive feature debut from writer-producer-director Mercedes Garcia Guevara. Alejandro Brodersohn's ability to capture the harsh beauty of a country's wintry landscapes and the pleasure in a carefully shaded central performance from Paolo Krum are two of the attractive elements in a film that deserves wider festival exposure. It might even hold English-language remake potential for some enterprising producer.
The ominous skies, heavy rain and atmospheric lighting initially suggest that we are deep in film noir territory as Ana (Krum) discovers a letter thanking her husband for his financial contributions and informing him that a young boy has started drawing classes. The audience shares her assumption that the husband has been concealing a secret son.
Ana subsequently embarks on a long journey to a small rural village where she discovers a tangled family history that includes a brother-in-law and a nephew that she never knew existed. The feelings aroused by them provoke a re-assessment of her marriage and a fatal erosion of the commitment she once felt to her husband.
A confident and compact piece of storytelling, Hidden River sometimes demands that we take a little too much for granted, especially the swiftness of the attraction between Ana and her brother-in-law. However, it remains just plausible enough to maintain your respect and to keep your expectations on edge. It also leaves you noting Guevara as a name to watch in the future.