German de Silva, Hebe Duarte, Nayra Calle Mamani
Director: Pablo Giorgelli
Of the three critically acclaimed films on the Cannes Film Festival's Critics' week programme last year, Las Acacias stands out: unlike the other two - American supernatural drama Take Shelter, and French drama-comedy Declaration of War - Pablo Giorgelli's film doesn't boast of stars (one of the two protagonists is a first-time actress), is mostly confined to the cab of a truck, and there's no twist to surprise viewers.
Las Acacias is, however, a delicately written, brilliantly acted drama about the budding relationship between two different but equally depressed souls travelling from the Paraguayan-Argentinian border to Buenos Aires.
On one side is Ruben (German de Silva), a trucker who has basically lost his family and his life - this is a man who gives a DVD player to his sister as a present months after her birthday - with the cross-country journeys his only objectives in life. On the other is Jacinta (Hebe Duarte on her debut), an impoverished Guarani woman who has paid Ruben's employer for a ride to the Argentinian capital where she will join her family and look for work.
It's inevitable their relationship will start off on the wrong track - Ruben is aghast at having to ferry Jacinta's baby girl as well, and Jacinta is apprehensive about Ruben's sour demeanour - before warming into sympathy. Yet there are no cliches here; these seemingly opposite characters may take a liking to each other, but their fondness never goes into syrupy, romantic drama territory.
Just as he treats the central relationship, Giorgelli has also shown a deft, understated mise-en-scene here: he uses to great effect the changing settings along the road and the myriad items within the cab itself. The winner of the best first film Camera d'Or award at Cannes last year, Las Acacias is a subtle film which offers much more than its synopsis suggests, and stands as a reworking of the road movie/relationship genre which has been done to death by European and US filmmakers.