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BERLINALE 2020 Panorama

Review: One in a Thousand


- BERLINALE 2020: The expression “growing pains” was coined for a reason, as proven by Clarisa Navas’ sophomore feature, which has opened the Panorama section of the Berlinale

Review: One in a Thousand
Ana Carolina García (left) and Sofía Cabrera in One in a Thousand

Iris, the main character played by Sofía Cabrera in Clarisa NavasOne in a Thousand [+see also:
film profile
, which has opened the Panorama section of the 70th Berlinale, seems like a really nice, decent girl, yet she was expelled from school and spends her days loitering around a neighbourhood that is far from pleasant or welcoming. There are no cool cafes, bars or pretty much anything there, just the slowly disintegrating yards of a social housing estate. The locals meet for birthday celebrations, for basketball games or for parties where the drinks look like they were scooped from the gutter.

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Iris doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, and doesn’t have passionate and desperate sex in dark alleyways. Instead, she plays basketball and hangs out with her two cousins, Dario and Ale. They’re all at that awkward age when they’re no longer kids but not yet adults either. The boys, one of whom is openly gay, while the other is just open-minded, dress up in women’s clothes, discuss their growing sexual needs and hang out together, while trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in the world. When Renata (Ana Carolina García), a free-spirited and wild girl who has been labelled “loose” by the neighbourhood, shows up, Iris instantly falls for her – and that leads to troubles of a different nature.

The teens, barely supervised by their mothers, and in the absence of their fathers, keep going, facing both the pleasures and the pains of grown-up life. They are three separate people, but they also represent three different elements found in humankind: the calm and shy Iris is the body, Ale – who writes a naïve but powerful rant about society’s rigid view on relationships – is the mind and the soul, while Dario is pure lust. Writer-director Navas stays close to all of them, observing them with a hand-held camera and non-judgemental curiosity. Through time and the lack of a rigid narrative structure, she successfully forms a bond between the audience and her adolescent characters, enabling us to lose ourselves in their daily routines. Their days and lives seem to drift and not lead to anything special, but then again, whose life does?

Navas’ sensual movie also has a subtle yet powerful social message: the old order that divided people into groups (such as heterosexual, gay, lesbian or even “whore”) is obsolete, but as she points out, complete, unrestrained freedom could also pose a problem when one is looking to forge one’s own identity. It feels as though, for Navas, the teens represent Argentinian society, with the very notable absence of the characters’ fathers, who could be a metaphor for the “old ways”. The longish running time (exactly two hours) could have benefited from some cuts in the editing room, but then again, growing up feels exactly like this – tiring, and sometimes uncomfortably long and drawn out.

One in a Thousand is an Argentinian-German film, produced by Buenos Aires-based Varsovia Films and co-produced by Berlin’s Autentika Films. Diego Dubcovsky and Lucia Chavarri were the producers, while Paulo de Carvalho and Gudula Meinzolt are credited as co-producers. Pluto Film handles the world sales.

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