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White Elephant

Directed by Pablo Trapero

Argentina, 2012

Cornerhouse, 27 April 2013

White Elephant

As a priest in a slum neighbourhood, occupying an ivory tower while ministering to the poor, Julian (Ricardo Darin) feels as though he is being slowly ground down.

Nicolas (Jeremie Renier), a fractured fragile colleague, is called upon to fight the good fight alongside him.  Like the prince of peace, they are assailed on all sides by vested worldly interests: criminal gangs dealing drugs and fighting over turf, the police and the politicians on the city council, cut-throat construction companies, even the church establishment itself.  But, unlike with Jesus, miracles and much less the odd moments of simple grace are in short supply.

It is an aggravating film to watch, for you feel too much how impossible, how fatally compromised the priests’ predicament is.  The way in which the film comments en passant on how reputation and myth are made, how canonisation occurs, is impressive.  Some excellent performances grace the film, not least from Jeremie Renier.