Toronto Film Festival 2012 – The Towrope (La Sirga) (2012)

September 17th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor
Director/Writer:    William Vega

Cast: Joghis Seudin Arias, Julio César Roble, Floralba Achicanoy, David                Fernando Guacas, Heraldo Romero

88 mins Colombia, France, Mexico 2012

Spanish; subtitled       Drama

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Filmed with a complete economy deserving of its subject matter and no small amount of mastery by writer and director William Vega, I realised from the opening frame that I was going to fall for La Sirga. There’s a relaxation that takes hold, as an audience, once it registers that it is in good hands and that all it needs do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Alicia has travelled far, searching for her uncle and her last surviving relative, in the hope that she might find sanctuary there with him. This is one of those films that gives the viewer the impression that ‘nothing is happening’. Au contraire. Everything is happening.

The acting is understated and captivating, the camera moves minimal but entirely earned and the dialogue stripped back -almost to the point of rudeness. One key reason this film is so good is because the director is all but invisible. There are no artificial aids here, nothing to inflate the story or enhance the actors beyond the candles they hold for light and the superb, pointed, but oh-so-subtle interplay between the extraordinary cast. The only soundtrack permitted is a restless wind through long reeds, a few restrained birds chirping in the near distance and the ever-present Andean lake lapping at the doorstep. Life here is about the preparation needed for survival; making sure there’s enough wood, that the house isn’t going to fall down during inclement weather and scraping enough money from this harsh, blasted landscape to put food on the table.

The bigger picture, of political unrest, unspeakable violence and the rest of the known world going about its business happens entirely off camera and yet these things orchestrate utterly all that happens on camera in this all but perfect study of human endeavour against all the odds; Alicia reminiscent of a lily flowering on a vast lake, open to the elements.  La Sirga plays out like a cross between a dense, beautiful, powerful poem of very few words and a documentary, it’s so realistic.  AT


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