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A Place Called Los Pereyra: Charity seen from both sides

A scene from A Place Called Los Pereyra.

3 out of 4 stars


A Place Called Los Pereyra

  • Directed by Andres Livov-Macklin
  • (In Spanish with English subtitles)

The conflicts that can arise from well-intentioned acts of charity are examined in intimate, respectful and poetic detail in A Place Called Los Pereyra, the feature documentary debut of Argentina-born, Toronto-based filmmaker Andres Livov-Macklin.

We are so used to the endless international headlines and television coverage of large-scale disasters - whether hurricanes, earthquakes or famines - that it's easy to forget sometimes that charity begins at home. But that doesn't necessarily make it less complicated.

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Livov-Macklin takes his time making us feel the daily rhythm of a remote, impoverished village in rural Argentina where schoolchildren eagerly await the annual week-long visit of their "godmothers," who help sponsor their education. This is a film about community and group interaction, never singling out specific characters. The decision serves the film well, allowing room to zoom in occasionally on small moments.

The most memorable people are the small school's two kind, dedicated teachers. In one revealing scene (before the arrival of the "godmothers"), the teachers gather the parents in the classroom and give them a gently persuasive talk about the importance of education, of making sure the children actually attend school (they arrive via bike or horse-drawn cart) and of not punishing the children too harshly.

As a surprise, the godmothers turn out to be kids themselves - students at the most expensive, all-girl private high school in Buenos Aires. There is a lovely contrast in the film between the animals the kids live with in the village - household pets like dogs, cats and parrots, and farm creatures like goats and donkeys - and the more exotic, caged creatures that the school kids and godmothers go to see during a bus trip to a zoo.

You sense the freedom of the village kids, despite their economic disadvantage, and the comparatively "locked-in" destiny of the godmothers, all without a hint of judgment. A Place Called Los Pereyra offers viewers a chance to contemplate both sides, what it means to give and to receive.

A Place Called Los Pereyra plays at the Royal until July 12, with filmmakers in attendance.

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