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La Ciénaga

Modern Masters

Lucrecia Martel / Feature Narrative / Argentina, France, Spain / 2001 / 102 min / Colour / 35mm
In Spanish / Arabic, English subtitles
Interests: Comedy, Drama
Rated: Mature subject matter. Not suitable for minors. Individuals under the age of 18 are not admitted into cinemas.

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Shortly after Lucrecia Martel’s ‘La Ciénaga’ begins, a group of children look on while a panicked cow, trapped in quicksand up to its haunches, struggles to free itself from the mire. This moment of helpless tragedy sets the tone for the film to come, in which a decayed bourgeois family is hopelessly trapped in a morass of nonchalant lethargy.

The story revolves around Mecha, a middle-class, middle-aged mother of five. Bogged down in a pathetic marriage, Mecha spends the dank, humid summer days lazing about in a haze, erupting with bitterness, which she expresses by lashing out at her family, her friends and her Amerindian servants, whom she accuses of being lazy and deceitful in exasperated tones laced with racism. When Mecha’s cousin Tali, who lives in the nearby city of La Ciénaga (‘the swamp’ in English), comes to visit with her husband and children, the cracks in a family plagued by repression and social stagnation threaten to split open.

Grounded in a precise script, wonderful cinematography, a brilliant use of sound and riveting performances, ‘La Ciénaga’ simmers with claustrophobic dread as it moves inexorably forward to its shocking conclusion. With her award-winning debut feature, Martel provides scathing social commentary at its best.

About the Director

Lucrecia Martel studied at the National Experimentation Filmmaking School in Buenos Aires in her native Argentina, making a number of short films between 1988 and 1994. Her award-winning short film ‘Dead King’ was part of the omnibus film ‘Brief Tales I’, a collection of shorts by new Argentinian filmmakers.

Her debut feature-length film, ‘La Ciénaga’ (2001) was internationally hailed as the arrival of an exciting new voice in world cinema. It won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere; several awards, including Best Director, at the Havana Film Festival; and the Best First Film award from the Argentine Film Critics Association. It went on to be voted the greatest Latin American film of the decade in a poll of New York film critics, festival programmers and industry professionals, and is seen as an important development in the New Argentine Cinema.

Martel’s follow-up, ‘The Holy Girl’ (2004), continued the acclaim won by ‘La Ciénaga’, was selected for competition at the Festival de Cannes, and appeared in numerous festivals around the world. In 2008, she released ‘The Headless Woman’, which premiered in competition at Cannes and won several awards, including the Best Director Award from ACE, the Argentine Academy of Cinematography Arts and Sciences and the Argentine Film Critics Association.

All her films have been well-received at international film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam, among many others. Retrospectives of her work have been screened at prestigious institutions including Harvard University, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and the Tate Museum in London. She has been a juror at festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Rotterdam, Sundance and Venice, among many others.

Martel’s fourth feature-length film, ‘Zama’, is slated to premiere in 2017.


Lucrecia Martel
Lucrecia Martel
Lita Stantic
Santiago Ricci
Hugo Colace
Sales Company
Lita Stantic Producciones
Production Company
Wanda Vision, RioFilme, TS Prodictions
Set Designer
Cristina Nigro
Graciela Borges, Mercedes Moran, Martín Adjemian, Diego Baenas, Leonora Balcarce, Silvia Bayle

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