Adios Buenos Aires: Compelling Film Captures Argentina’s Turbulent Past

The five members of the tango band in Adios Buenos Aires

“Adios Buenos Aires” is set in November 2001, when Argentina was beset by civil unrest and riots. German Kral directed and co-produced this compelling movie.

This difficult period of social and economic instability became known as the Argentinazo. Within three weeks, protests brought down the corrupt government.

With that backdrop, this extraordinary film skillfully blends history with storytelling. It transports viewers to Buenos Aires and captures the profound emotional and practical impact these events had on working-class people across Argentina. 

The 93-minute movie (in Spanish with English subtitles) premiered in New York City this week at the Cinema Village theater in the West Village. It received enthusiastic reception from an international audience, and I was fortunate to be invited to be in the audience. 

About Adios Buenos Aires: Coupling History With Storytelling 

Bandoneon (credit: Adobe Stock)
Bandoneon (credit: Adobe Stock)

Julio Farber, the film’s protagonist (played by Diego Cremonesi), is a charismatic bandoneon player with a passion for tango music. (The bandoneon is an accordion-like instrument popular with tango bands in Argentina and Uruguay whose sounds convey strong emotions.)

He is resilient and hard-working, grappling with the challenges of raising his rebellious teenage daughter after a contentious divorce. 

He is part of a tight-knit group of five friends who share a deep love for tango. They perform together regularly, not only because of their passion for music but also to supplement their meager incomes. All the band members are facing economic hardship.

Julio is torn between his deep love for his country and his burning desire to create a better life for himself and his daughter by emigrating to Germany. This internal struggle poignantly reflects the difficult choices many Argentinians faced during this turbulent period. 

With great angst, he reluctantly sells the business he inherited from his father to fund the move and deposits the proceeds in his bank. But his dream is shattered when the government suddenly freezes all bank accounts and imposes draconian withdrawal restrictions, an action called the corralito (little stall). This event precipitated widespread civil unrest in the Argentinian capital and other major cities.

Julio’s last hope for financing the trip was to sell his car, his only remaining valuable asset. Again, he is foiled when fate intervenes. A charming but quirky single mother and uninsured taxi driver, Mariela (played by Marina Belatti), rams into his car and renders it worthless.

Julio and Mariela in Adios Buenos Aires
Julio and Mariela in Adios Buenos Aires (courtesy Outsider Pictures)

A Soulful Music Score

The strong ensemble cast includes Mario Alarcon (as Ricardo Tortorella), an aging Tango singer yanked out of a retirement home to join the group. The beautifully crafted plot moves quickly, keeping the audience engaged to see if and how things will resolve for Julian, his family, and his compatriots.

Mario Alarcon (as Ricardo Tortorella) credit: Outsider Pictures)
Mario Alarcon (as Ricardo Tortorella) credit: Outsider Pictures)

The film’s soulful tango music (with lyrics written between 1930 and 1960) is stirring. Kral thought this was essential to telling the story in a way that would “touch the hearts of the audience.” To that end, he commissioned a tango expert to find the best tango musicians to make the musical recordings for the film. Similarly, he chose a well-known Argentinian singer, Carlos Morel, to be the voice of Mario Alarcon.

Although director Kral began working on the project some twenty years ago, it feels very timely given the political discord in American politics and the wide gap between the haves and have-nots. Upon leaving the theater, you may feel the impulse to squirrel some money under your mattress—just in case.

About German Kral

Director, co-producer, co-writer German Kral (left) with his team
Director, co-producer, and co-writer German Kral (left) with his team (credit: Outsider Pictures)

Talented Argentinian director German Kral was born in Buenos Aires and now splits his time between there and Germany. He helped write the screenplay for the movie with Stephan Puchner and Fernando Castets.

He is an award-winning graduate of the Munich Film School who has directed and produced documentary films. Adios Buenos Aires is his first feature film, which Outsider Pictures is distributing.

Special screenings of the film are scheduled for NYC, Florida, and Los Angeles. 

Watch the trailer for Adios Buenos Aires on YouTube

 


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Poster for Adios Buenos Aires

 

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