Films: White Elephant

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White Elephant  {Elefante blanco}

White Elephant
Elefante blanco

Argentina, 2012, 111 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Social Issues
Program: Focus on Nation Cinema: Argentina
Language: Spanish English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Pablo Trapero
Producer: Alejandro Cacetta, Juan Pablo Galli, Juan Gordon, Pablo Trapero, Juan Vera
Editor: Andrés P. Estrada, Nacho Ruiz Capillas, Pablo Trapero
Screenwriter: Alejandro Fadel, Martín Mauregui, Santiago Mitre, Pablo Trapero
Cinematographer: Guillermo Nieto
Principal Cast: Ricardo Darín, Jeremie Renier, Martina Gusman

A joint Argentine, French and Spanish production, White Elephant is set in the slums of Buenos Aires in the shadow of a half-finished housing project for which the film is named. It begins far from there, at night in the jungle where a young Catholic priest named Nicolas struggles to outrun a violent militia bent on capturing him. He survives, but by the time his mentor, Julian, finds him in a makeshift jungle hospital, he’s in bad shape and tormented by guilt for not saving those he was supposed to serve. Father Julian takes him back to the city and grooms him to take over his duties, ministering to the poor. But there is violence here too, mostly among the drug gangs that dominate the slums. Territorial battles break out. Kids are sucked into the work and the culture. Politicians, church officials, and corrupt police exacerbate the problem. The priests do what they can, aided by social worker Luciana, but it’s a Sisyphean task, and the violence takes a toll on their idealism. The project languishes and tensions build. Luciana finally decides to quit after years of trying to improve conditions, but Nicolas begs her to stay, his commitment to his clerical vows doing battle with his need for connection.


Director Pablo Trapero (Carancho, Lion’s Den) brings the story to life with highly atmospheric images, including a long, fluid single take of a police raid. White Elephant had its world premiere at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard program.


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