April in Buenos Aires means one thing for film lovers — it’s film festival time. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film is a 12-day movie extravaganza showing some of the world’s best independent cinema in theaters across the city.
Known by its Spanish acronym, BAFICI, the festival is now its 21st year.
In 1998 the Buenos Aires Culture Department began hosting this yearly festival to showcase the planet’s most provocative, bizarre and touching independent films of every genre. Today, BAFICI is one of the world’s largest independent film festivals with hundreds of film screenings seen by nearly 300,000 filmgoers.
The festival always has a heavy representation of local productions and has served as an excellent promotion vehicle for independent Argentine films. Argentina is a leader in South American cinema alongside Mexico, Brazil and Cuba. Since the emergence of the 1990’s ‘new cinema’ movement, the national film industry has been on an upswing.
The 2009’s Academy Award winner, ‘The Secret in their Eyes’ was Argentina’s greatest breakout on the world stage in this generation, increasing an interest in Argentine cinema abroad. The 20th (2018) edition of the festival also featured the debut hit, ‘El Silencio es un Cuerpo Que Cae‘ (Silence is a Falling Body), which won the Netflix Award for Best First Work.
Changes to 2019’s BAFICI
This year’s BAFICI has seen many adjustments, as the previous principal festival location has been moved from the more central Village Recoleta out to the Multiplex in Belgrano. Village Caballito, El Centro Cultural San Martín and El Museo de Bellas Artes, are not participating in BAFICI this year, although there will be one film shown at the Museum of Modern Art in San Telmo.
While the festival was extended one day, from eleven days to twelve days, and promotes 37 participating locations around the city, including underprivileged neighborhoods such as the Villa 31 slum, local film critics such as Diego Batlle are pointing out that there is actually a reduction in the number of actual theaters — from 20 in 2018, to 12 this year.
The city is highlighting the move from traditional theaters into the street as a good thing, saying in their press release, “With less enclosed theaters and more contact with the street, the neighborhood and the neighbors, BAFICI offers the experience of watching a variety of films with each other and in the community, presenting a diverse national and international program.”
Festival organizer Javier Porta Fouz, is also being criticized because it is possible there will be no big-name guests this year. In previous editions, there have been appearances and participation by famous directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Morrisey, and John Waters.
American filmmaker, Brian de Palma was suppose to be the featured guest this year, but this still hasn’t been confirmed within in one week of the beginning of the festival.
This year’s BAFICI will open with the magical surrealist film ‘Claudia,’ by Sebastián de Caro at the outdoor Centenario Park Amphitheater. The film, shot almost entirely in a mansion in the northern suburb of Vincente Lopez, is about a workaholic wedding planner who runs into a comedy of errors on the job.
Among the international films that will be featured this year are: ‘God of the Piano,’ by Itay Tal (Israel);
‘Noemi Gold,’ by Dan Rubinstein (Argentina – USA – Mexico); ‘L’homme fidèle,’ by Louis Garrel (France); ‘Music and Apocalypse,’ by Max Linz (Germany); ‘We Are Little Zombies,’ by Makoto Nagahisa (Japan); and ‘The Unicorn,’ by Isabelle Dupuis and Tim Geraghty (USA). This year’s program also includes films by Werner Herzog, Lars Van Trier, and Paolo Sorrentino.
BAFICI’s 2019 closing film is, ‘Santiago, Italia,’ a documentary by Nanni Moretti about the role the Italian embassy in Chile played to help extradite citizens who opposed the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
BAFICI Categories and Awards
For those who don’t speak Spanish, the film festival offers an opportunity to see independent Latin American films in the theater with English subtitles. Non-English films are subtitled in Spanish, and in recent years all but the most obscure films in languages other than Spanish also feature English subtitles.
The festival provides the chance to talk with producers, directors and actors about their films, especially in questions and answer sessions that take place after selected screenings.
Awards are handed out in the following categories: Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Script. The Argentine feature film competition and short film competition have separate awards for the first two categories. Filmgoers are invited to vote on films they see for the People Choice Award. Other awards include I.Sat’s ‘Film of The Future’ award, Best Children’s Film and a UNICEF human rights award.
Thematic categories include Panorama, Trajectories, The Land Trembles, Places, People and Personalities, Music, Nocturnal, Modern Classics and Dialogues. Films are for those 18 and over, but kids aren’t excluded — since 2009 the BAFICITI category of the festival offers film for children.
Many of the city’s film students and other cinephiles dedicate their lives to seeing as many films as possible during BAFICI. You’ll see them hanging around the theater all day with short breaks to visit local eateries and cafés, to hobnob with festival participants and other film-goers.
No matter how dedicated, movie-goers can’t see it all, so it pays to plan well. If seeing multiple films in one day, check the length of the films and make sure the theaters are close enough to one another to arrive in time.
Selecting Films at the Festival
In the last five years BAFICI has seen a huge increase in participation. Tickets for the official selections sell out quick. Your best bet is to buy tickets in advance online.
Serious filmgoers can purchase the official catalog for in-depth descriptions of the films and other relevant information. You can check the schedule of films online or pick up a free basic program at the Multiplex of Belgrano.
Other events include free educational workshops by Buenos Aires Lab (BAL) and INCAA (National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts), concerts, book presentations and talks with film directors.
Purchasing Tickets to the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival
Check the day by day list of films on BAFICI’s official webpage. To buy tickets online, open an account with Tu Entrada and have a major credit card on hand for purchase. They charge a small fee to buy online.
A handful of tickets are reserved for the day of the show, to be purchased at the theater. Your best bet if buying in person is to get to the theater box office bright and early. Tickets can also be purchased at the Belgrano Multiplex, everyday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
⇒ Check out our city tours and day trips
⇒ Don’t miss a tango show while in Buenos Aires
Apr 3 – Apr 14 2019
• Cost: AR$70/ AR$50 (students and seniors with I.D.) per film
Vuelta de Obligado 2199
Av. Córdoba 946
Anfiteatro del Parque Centenario (outdoor)
Av. Ángel Gallardo y Leopoldo Marecha
Espacio INCAA Gaumont
Usina del Arte
A. Caffarena 1 & Don Pedro de Mendoza
Cerrito 628 Malba Cine
Av. Figueroa Alcorta 3415 Fundación Proa
Av. Pedro de Mendoza 1929
• Plan well and buy online to get tickets to the films you want to see
• If you buy online, don’t forget your I.D. when you go to pick up your tickets
• Don’t show up late for screenings: despite the fact that this is Argentina, where lateness is not too taboo, latecomers are turned away
• Snacks, sodas and beer are sold at most of the theaters. Costs and calories can add up, so consider packing snacks for all-day movie going
→ Read an interview with the director of BAFICI