QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM SAN SEBASTIAN
Camila (Nina Dziembrowski), her younger sister, her mother and her grandmother move to Buenos Aires, where she enrols in a school and quickly befriends other students. Her single mother is a progressive thinker, however suffocated by her ailing yet formidable mother. The highly politicised and fiercely temperamental Camila describes her grandmother as a “dying fascist”.
The sick grandmother is never to be seen. Yet her presence is pervasive. The house in which they live is preserved as some sort of sanctuary, the furniture covered in plastic sheets. This protection is particularly significant in the case of the bed: it prevents the young women from desecrating it. The invisible grandmother represents the recent past of Argentina, with decades of oppression and coup d’etats. A time when citizens had few freedoms and women had no control over their bodies. Camila’s mother is not prepared to confront this representative of the past, instead passively waiting for her to pass away.
Camila and her friends are very vocal about their progressives values. Camila gets told off for sporting a political symbol during her first day in school. The irony is that the mother opts to send her militant daughter to a Catholic school because such educational institutions have a very strong reputation (very similarly to Britain). Religious doctrine will of course collide with Camila’s beliefs. She refuses to silence and conform, instead opting to break away from the orthodox rules. In addition to the school staff, she also has to contend with the macho bullies. Her locker room is quickly vandalised with an anti-feminist slur: “Feminazi”.
Camila does not feel intimidated. She is a 21st century adolescent. She impersonates various liberal values: abortion, democracy, sexual diversity and sexual liberation. She literally embodies a country ridding itself of the patriarchy and its oppression mechanisms: marriage, sexual abuse and refusing women the right to abort. Camila has full control over her body. In fact, her body is a powerful weapon.
Despite dealing with so many political topics, Camila Comes Out Tonight never slips into crude propagandism. The political statements are subtle, yet credible and clear. The adolescent dialogues feel palpable and realistic. You will deep dive into the passionate yet turbulent world of idealistic teenagers. A powerful experience.
It’s hardly surprising that abortion is a central topic. Last December, Argentina became the second country in South American history to legalise abortion (after neighbouring Uruguay in 2012). Argentina is also at the forefront of gay marriage, being the first country in Latin America to legalise such unions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Camila is keen to experiment with the same sex. This is where the “comes out” in the title acquires an extra significance. Yet this is not a film about an adolescent coming out of the closet. This is a film about an entire country coming out of a very dark place.
In other words, Camila Comes Out Tonight is a delightful coming-of-age tale heavily infused with political flavours that do overpower the cinematic degustation. Oh, and be prepared for a punch-in-the-face ending overflowing with symbolism. Simply dirtylicious.
Camila Comes Out Tonight has just premiered as part of the Official Competition of the 69th San Sebastian International Film Festival. A strong contender for the event’s top prize, the Golden Shell (in a year when the Oscar, Cannes, Berlin and Venice all bestowed their top prizes on films made by women).