A 2021 Film Journey: Day 139

Fell asleep last night while writing this one. It is probably for the best though; I needed some time to process this film. I really either need to start watching my films earlier, or not pick such heavy material to watch at 10pm.

Zama (2017, Dir. Lucrecia Martel)

zama | vertoning | KASKcinema

Zama is the type of film that really causes me to regret my lack of any formal film criticism training. I can tell you that Zama is beyond brilliant, and that I was in constant awe watching it, but I am not sure what specifically about it activated those feelings in me. The film is a period piece taking place in 18th century Argentina, but the setting has an air of surrealism that creates a constant unease. Spanish elegance is made a mockery of while set upon mud floors and occupied with donkeys in a way that creates a unique world for Martel’s film.

While the setting in Zama may exists in an intermediate space between reality and full-blown surrealism, the film’s narrative symbolism is anything but vague.  At its core, Zama is an extremely critical satire of colonialism. Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho) and the rest of the Spanish occupiers are portrayed as excessively foppish. The film is constantly juxtaposing the white men who look a fool in their garish costumes with the indigenous people mostly naked, but able to survive in the tropic environment. While the power dynamics are as grim as they were in reality, Martel’s innovative look at the time provides a welcome reframing of that history.

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