CAAMFest 2015: La Salada

In the post-show Q&A after a CAAMFest screening, director Juan Martin Hsu made a compelling case for the uniqueness of his film with respect to contemporary Argentinian cinema; he suggested that La Salada portrayed new and first-generation Argentine immigrants such that they are not the “punch line” in the narrative, as they are frequently portrayed in mainstream Argentinian media. And indeed, the slice of Buenos Aires portrayed in La Salada is entirely devoid of steaks, tango, colonial architecture, and gated modern homes. Mixed in with the Italianate Spanish which the “native” Argentinians speak, there is a generous helping of Quechua, Mandarin, Korean, and Bolivian lowland Spanish. La Salada in some ways feels slight and incomplete, largely due to financing issues (much of the film had to be severely edited down). Nonetheless, Mr. Hsu’s first feature film is insightful, compassionate, and real without wallowing in melancholy. From poor to rich, all of his characters retain their dignity and agency while communicating in Spanish to a native Korean speaker, speaking by telephone to a mother who is both emotionally and physically remote, or transcending the generational gap between father and daughter. Here, different languages and foods are not barriers but bridges: the need to connect and communicate transcends identities. Significantly, Mr. Hsu has a particular and heartbreaking feeling for the notions of “home” and “homesickness,” conveying the complexity of feeling through one character’s insomnia, another character’s attempt to keep his daughter “Korean,” and another character’s attempt to find any meaningful connections in his new home.

Winner of the 2013 San Sebastian Film Festival’s Films in Progress Award.

La Salada, dir. Juan Martin Hsu, 91 min. Incaa, et al., 2014. In Spanish (mostly). Now playing at the 2015 CAAMFest, San Francisco Bay Area.