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Pablo Trapero wins La Mostra’s Best Director for El clan

Pablo Trapero during his Best Director Award acceptance speech.

Matías Mosteirín, K&S Films producer, Esther García and Agustín Almodóvar, El Deseo producers, Peter Lanzani, protagonist, Pablo Trapero, director, Guillermo Francella, protagonist, Leticia Cristi y Hugo Sigman, K&S Films producers, at the Venice Film Festival.

After a 17-year absence from the Venice Film Festival, Argentina finally featured an entry in the official competition at the biennale: Pablo Trapero’s box office hit El clan, a murder thriller about the real-life case of the Puccios, an outwardly respectable middle-class family who formed a sinister commando living off kidnapping and murder. Argentina’s previous entry in La Mostra was Fernando “Pino” Solanas’ La nube, which vied for the Golden Lion top prize in 1998.

In Trapero’s El clan, which soon made it to Argentina’s two opening weeks record history with nearly 400,000 viewers, most shocking of all, perhaps, was that the family’s eldest son, Alejandro, was a member of a prestigious rugby club. One of his teammates in Los Pumas Argentine national team was kidnapped and brutally killed by the Puccios. El clan boasts a sterling performance by Guillermo Francella, who proves extraordinarily malleable as he sheds his comedian image for a dramatic role. Says director Trapero in his Mostra presentation: “The limits between reality and fiction will never be final. Everyday life is full of absurd and unbelievable moments that we do not understand. In real life, it may happen that we have to deal with situations that surpass fiction. El clan is a film that takes this to an extreme, a story based on the unbelievable becoming true.” In an interview with the Herald last month before the Argentine release of El clan, Trapero said that, “The idea of a family that has their son’s friends kidnapped and held in their own home is just unbelievable. Then, the fact that the whole family is involved, in one way or another, makes it even more unbelievable. And this family is also a symptom of the times (Argentina in the early 1980s). So by telling their story, I have viewers ask themselves how it is possible that something like this can happen in the house next door.”

As for the research process for El clan, Trapero said that, “Contrary to what I had thought, because of technological changes, there isn’t much material about the case. Researching in a pre-Internet era, all we could do was turn to newspaper and magazine archives. We talked to some of Alejandro’s friends from the neighbourhood and the sports club. We talked to legal experts who gave us the psychological profiles of Arquímedes (the father) and Alejandro, and we talked to judges and relatives of the victims. We read testimonies and transcripts from the trial. Actually, it was a surprising process because I learned about stories and details that were hard to find. “For instance, Arquímedes’ criminal life began a lot earlier than 1982. He was charged with smuggling weapons while he was in the diplomatic service during Perón’s presidency, but the case was dismissed. Then in 1973 he was a member of the Triple A, and it seems he was involved in the Bonafide kidnapping case, with Aníbal Gordon. Once again, the charges were mysteriously dismissed. He was also in the SIDE state intelligence agency.”

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