WHITE ELEPHANT (ELEFANTE BLANCO), Thu 14 November, 8pm

By December 25, 2012 archive, Season 9 films

The challenge of retaining faith and hope in the face of poverty and injustice is at the core of this brilliant, hard-hitting film. Two dedicated priests try, and often fail, to make a difference in a grim Buenos Aires shanty town. Score by Michael Nyman.

Director: Pablo Trapero . Argentina, 2012. 110 minutes. Cert: 15A. Language: Spanish

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The challenge of retaining your faith in the face of everyday poverty, suffering and injustice provides a compelling core to this latest from brilliant Argentinian director Pablo Trapero. In  Lion’s Den and Carancho, he displayed his skill at fusing social issues with gripping thriller narratives, and here adapts to the daunting environs of a real-life shantytown in Buenos Aires, surrounding the massive empty shell of an unfinished hospital – a monument to failed good intentions.

Ricardo Darín, South America’s great screen icon, exudes troubled decency as the embattled priest caught between church officialdom and his hardscrabble flock, while the arrival of Jérémie Renier’s big-hearted but impetuous Belgian missionary only escalates the temperature of the neighbourhood drugs war.

Examining the gnarly realities of compassion, the film is resolutely fair-minded towards the local residents who took part in its production, and adamantly eschews easy answers in pondering the conundrum of making a difference. The brooding Michael Nyman score is used with sparing effectiveness. –  Trevor Johnston / Irish Film Institute Programme

Starring: Riccardo Darin, Jérémie Renier, Martina Gusman