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White Elephant (DVD Review)

31 Mar, 2013 By: Angelique Flores

Street 4/2/13
$27.99 DVD
Not rated.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Ricardo Darín, Jérémie Renier, Martina Gusman.

Actors Ricardo Darín and Martina Gusman have teamed up again with director Pablo Trapero (Carancho) for this heavy drama from Argentina, White Elephant.

The always impressive Darín (The Secret in Their Eyes, Nine Queens) stars as Julián, a priest who works in an area of Buenos Aires called “White Elephant.” This slum is a failed hospital project, where about 30,000 people live in poverty, squalor and drug-fueled violence.

Knowing he has terminal cancer, Julián has just brought on a younger priest, Nicolas (Jérémie Renier of Atonement), to help him at White Elephant. Still learning the do’s and don’ts of the shantytown, Nicolas is also struggling not only with traumatic events he just survived in another war-torn country but also his desire to have a family.

At their weakest moments, the priests and social worker, Luciana (Gusman), don’t have much hope for change and feel so taxed that they question whether they can go on. This bleak and dismal film gets only darker as the corrupt and backward system claims more victims, while the priests and social workers tirelessly toil against mounting problems.

The cast is outstanding, making the characters palpably real and the film all the more heart-wrenching. 

Weaved into this fictional drama is a subplot about the real-life Catholic priest and activist Fr. Carlos Mugica, who was murdered in Buenos Aires. Julián and others are pushing for his sainthood.

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