Cine Las Americas 2012
By Don Simpson | April 28, 2012
Director: Santiago Mitre
Writer: Santiago Mitre
Starring: Esteban Lamothe, Romina Paula, Ricardo Felix, Valeria Correa
The Student is the directorial debut of Santiago Mitre, screenwriter for Pablo Trapero’s Leonera (2008) and Carancho (2010). The dense rapid fire political dialogue of The Student plays like an Argentine West Wing set on the campus of The University of Buenos Aires — and this is as good of a time as any to point out the significance of student activism in public universities throughout Latin America, and this engagement is echoed off campus as well, as politics plays a primary role in the lives of most Latin Americans. This is a sharp contrast to the United States where a majority of the population does not vote, let alone have any knowledge of their nation’s political history.
The Student uses student activism as a vessel to discuss the political environment outside of the university. The voiceover narration — a ploy to highlight that this film is a constructed work of fiction — alludes to several historical events that contextualize this fictional tale within the real political history of Argentina, such as the strong influence of Juan Perón, Lisandro de la Torre, and Raúl Alfonsín. The Student also cleverly compares and contrasts how the youth of today reflects upon Argentina’s political history with the older generations who participated in (or at least observed) the historical events firsthand.
Mitre’s film remains very close to its protagonist, Roque (Esteban Lamothe) from whose point of view the narrative unfolds. What is most fascinating is the way Mitre hones in on how Roque observes politics, focusing on his gaze, allowing us to observe the political environment through his eyes. The dialogue establishes a frantic rhythm that serves more as audible set dressing than anything meaningful — the machine gun blur of what is being said is not nearly as important as the scenarios, expressions and gestures.
When The Student begins, Roque’s primary objective is to utilize his powers of seduction and persuasion to lure women into bed with him; as the narrative progresses, his persuasive interpersonal powers enable him to succeed in politics. As a politician, Roque must be believable, knowledgeable and sincere to gain the trust and admiration of his peers. Just as his tenacious ambition propels his success with women, it also helps shape Roque into a successful politician as he quickly climbs the rungs of the university’s political hierarchy.