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Argentina’s Juan Villegas on ‘Las Vegas,’ Featuring at Cannes’ ACID

Emilio Mayorga

CANNES – Buenos Aires’ director-producer Juan Villegas presented his debut “Saturday” at the Venice Festival and won awards at the Rotterdam and Sarajevo film festivals. “Suicidals” screened at San Sebastián. “Idleness,” his third feature, co-directed with Alejando Lingenti, screened at the Berinale.

Produced by Salvador del Solar at Argentina’s Cepa Audiovisual and by Villegas’ production outfit Tresmilmundos Cine, Villegas’ last feature “Las Vegas,” a naturalistic indie comedy, forms part of an Argentina focus at ACID Trip #3– organized by France’s Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema (ACID) in partnership with the PCI (Association of Argentinian Film Directors) at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

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“Las Vegas” revolves around the accidental encounter of a separated couple with their son. This unchains a quietly comic entanglement… Tell me a bit about the story…

I was interested in expressing the conflicts at two different stages of life: of those who are reaching 40 years of age and those reaching 20. And the idea occurred to me of a separated couple, who had a son when they were very young— the same age the son is now. And from there, a reflection on the passage of time, acceptance of adulthood and parenthood.

It’s a comedy with some classic elements mixed with others indie touches  and even documentary overtones…

It’s a comedy and I say so without shame or disparagement. On the contrary, several of my favorite films of all time are comedies. But my taste is also mixed with other traditions – the Nouvelle Vague, post-war modern European cinema… – and I think that this is in the film. I was interested in showcasing the documentary reality of the city (Villa Gesell) and this building (Las Vegas). Without ever losing the notion of rhythm and timing, which seems to me to be fundamental in comedy, the film shows a real space without embellishing it artificially.

What are your international expectations with “Las Vegas”?

The film was very well received in Argentina, and I hope that this screening in the ACID section of Cannes helps it to be invited to other festivals across the world and achieve international distribution. The film has a direct humor, drawn from situations that arise from universal subjects, with which I believe many can identify.

Could you place the film in the context of the state of cinema production in Argentina?

These last few years have been difficult, especially for mid-sized productions and funding for an art-house audience. It’s increasingly difficult to finance and sustain this kind of production, and I see this as a grave problem. It doesn’t have to do specifically with the Argentina’s INCAA National Film Institute, but instead a context of change in the way audiences consume cinema, the hiking of production costs and difficulty to access international funding, which is fundamental for these kinds of films. But I’m an optimist. Argentinian cinema is fortunately highly diverse, and we know how to respond to moments of crisis.

Could you talk about your current projects?

I’m finishing a documentary, “Works and Days,” about the mounting of a musical at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires,  centered on the work of those who make it possible for the work to happen. And I’m working on a cop movie, “Neighbors Die on the Novels. Our production house Tresmilmundos Cine is in pre-production on Celina Murga’s new film, with Dolores Fonzi as the lead, “The Smell of Freshly Cut Grass.” It’s a drama tapping into the phenomenon of the feminist wave that’s produced a cultural revolution, at least in Argentina, over the last two years, and seeks to reflect on masculine and feminine roles in our society. Lastly, we’re developing a documentary series about the 1978 soccer World Cup which was held in Argentina.

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