Anita Review - The Jewish AdvocateDaniel M. Kimmel The Jewish Advocate
Aftermath of a bombing, through childlike eyes
By Daniel M. Kimmel
When you hear the premise of “Anita” – a 2010 Argentine film premiering locally April 20 – you may be apt to roll your eyes. It sounds like such a blatant attempt to grab at the heartstrings of the audience that you might be inclined to dismiss it as cynical and manipulative. And then you watch it. If you’re not smiling through tears at the end, then check to see if you have a pulse.
Set in Buenos Aires in 1994, it begins with Anita (Alejandra Manzo) and her “Mummy” (Norma Aleandro) on a typical Sunday. Anita’s older brother Felix (Luis Luque) is coming for a visit, but cancels plans to take Anita to the zoo. He doesn’t want to miss the final game of the World Cup. Anita is crushed, but her mother promises to take her out for cocoa.
Two things take the story out of the ordinary. One we notice right away: Anita has Down Syndrome. While she can help her mother in her shop and tend to herself somewhat, she needs supervision and doesn’t always fully comprehend what’s happening around her. The second thing takes place the next day. It is the bombing of the AMIA building, a major Jewish community center. Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds injured.
Anita, left alone in the store while her mother went to the center on an errand, is knocked out by the blast from down the street. When she comes to, she wanders outside, is taken to the hospital to be treated for her minor bruises and then walks away amid the chaos.
We then follow her as she moves into and out of the lives of various people who don’t know what to do about taking responsibility for this mentally challenged girl. Meanwhile, her brother believes his sister – like his mother – died in the explosion.
At our sedarim earlier this month, we told the story of the four sons, the youngest of whom does not even know how to ask a question. Anita is like that. She can bathe and feed herself, but she is used to others telling her when it is time to do so and making the preparations for her. Left alone wandering the city, she is lost both literally and psychologically. We come to appreciate those who rise to the occasion to help her, however imperfectly.
As Anita, Manzo is making her film debut. It’s hard to gauge how much her performance is crafted. Some people with Down Syndrome function independently and have even succeeded as actors. One doesn’t know if Manzo is portraying someone who has a young child’s sense of the world or if that is just how she is. It is a remarkable performance in either case.
Anita isn’t a blank slate. She provides comfort and help to those who help her. In making her the protagonist in a story about the terrorist bombing, filmmaker Marcos Carnevale seems to be saying we can’t make any more sense out of what happened than she can.
If there is evil in the world, there can also be kindness. “Anita” shows us there’s plenty of both in the world. There may be times when chaos seems triumphant, but individuals reaching out to help each other have the power to make this a better world.
Read this review at The Jewish Advocate.
Visit the Anita movie page