AFI Fest 2012
By Don Simpson | November 2, 2012
Director: Zach Weintraub
Writer: Zach Weintraub
Starring: Zach Weintraub, Sophia Takal
While Josh (Zach Weintraub) has presumably traveled to Buenos Aires to shoot an undefined video project, he seems much more interested in tracking down a woman named Martina. From what we can piece together, Josh has been to Buenos Aires at least once before and Martina is a woman with whom he enjoyed a fling or a crush or something. Then again, the past does not matter nearly as much as the present, which is essentially a collection of Josh’s failed attempts at tracking down Martina.
Enter Anna (Sophia Takal), another United States citizen who is staying in the same boarding house as Josh. Anna is not nearly as fluent in Spanish as Josh, thus establishing him as her a de facto translator. They begin to hang out more and more, but then Josh gets weird and pushes Anna away. It is incredibly fascinating to observe Josh’s on-again-off-again feelings towards Anna and how his wishy-washy, nonchalant attitude and overall indifference visibly makes Anna frustrated and upset…and who could blame her? Josh seems to be purposefully torturing Anna (as a consequence of his inability to track down Martina?), using her to quench his loneliness with sex one minute and pushing her away the next.
As a film that is essentially about the disassociation and loneliness of traveling alone to a foreign country, Zach Weintraub’s The International Sign For Choking shows the passing-like-ships-in-the-night relationships that seem to go hand-in-hand with solo international treks. Foreign travel is often romanticized as a opportunity to enjoy love without attachment, but what happens when one is prone to becoming attached? We have no idea what Josh and Martina’s relationship was like, or how long ago it occurred, but it is fairly likely that it was similar to his relationship with Anna. Maybe Josh did not realize he liked Martina until after he left Buenos Aires, and by then it was too late? In which case, will he feel the same way about Anna in a few months (or years)? Will Anna be yet another missed opportunity, another woman whom Josh let slip through his fingers?
Judging from the unbridled authenticity, we can only assume that Weintraub has experienced a lot of the very same on screen situations and he clearly has a keen understanding of what it is like to be traveling alone as an American tourist in Buenos Aires. Weintraub creates two protagonists that are not typical American tourists — the kind that locals probably disdain (Josh and Anna meet some of those very types of tourists one night in a bar); instead, Josh and Anna strive to immerse themselves in Argentine culture, closely observing Argentine habits and idiosyncrasies. So, on one level, Josh might be an ideal tourist; but, as far as relationships go, his inability to establish lasting connections is far from idealized.