Veronico Cruz

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

VERONICO CRUZ is the impressive feature film debut of Argentine director Miguel Pereira, who graduated from the London Film School on the day Argentine troops invaded the Falklands (Malvinas) Islands, precipitating the 1982 war between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Filmed in Argentina and postproduced in London on funds from the British Film Institute...read more

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VERONICO CRUZ is the impressive feature film debut of Argentine director Miguel Pereira, who graduated from the London Film School on the day Argentine troops invaded the Falklands (Malvinas) Islands, precipitating the 1982 war between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Filmed in

Argentina and postproduced in London on funds from the British Film Institute and Channel 4, VERONICO CRUZ would be remarkable for this collaboration even if it were not the fine film it is. Set in the province of Jujuy in Argentina's mountainous extreme northwest, the film tells the story of

Veronico (Gonzalo Morales), a little boy born in 1964 in the isolated village of Chorcan. His mother does not survive his birth and his father, desperately poor, leaves the village to seek work and never returns, leaving Veronico in his grandmother's care. Much of the film concentrates on his

lonely childhood in the austerely beautiful, arid, rocky, and windswept region, where he herds his grandmother's sheep and helps her with subsistence farming. One day a schoolteacher, Lehrer (Juan Jose Camero), comes to Chorcan, bearing such exotic items as eyeglasses, a transistor radio, and some

historical comic books that he gives to the illiterate Veronico. The boy becomes fascinated with the comics' strange images of pirates, "Uniforms of the Royal Navy," ships, and the sea. He associates the sea with a huge nearby salt flat, the vastest thing he can think of, where shells can be found

in the salt and where Veronico hears the sound of waves as he looks over the white expanse. When a puma kills their sheep, Veronico's grandmother finally allows him to attend the village school. There, "Maestro" Lehrer teaches Argentine history and introduces aspects of 20th-century civilization

to the children, while he himself becomes entranced by its indigenous culture. In the meantime, "civilization" makes more violent inroads after the 1975 military coup; soldiers come to Chorcan to depose the mayor and put the town constable (a likable, slow man who needs Maestro's help to pick out

the "political" books he has been ordered to seize from the teacher's library) in charge. After Veronico's grandmother dies, Maestro takes him in, and the two live happily until the teacher receives a letter from Veronico's father, imploring Maestro to teach the boy to stay in Chorcan rather than

leaving for the troubled south. When Maestro and Veronico embark on an expedition to find the boy's father in the provincial capital, the boy gawks at the statue of General Belgrano and the Flag Room in the capital building, while the teacher is interrogated by the police and learns that

Veronico's leftist father has "disappeared" as a result of his activity in labor disputes. The two go home, Veronico filled with technological visions of urban life and Maestro filled with dread for his country. Shortly thereafter (1978), Maestro is transferred to a post in the city. The film then

shifts entirely to his perspective, picking up in 1982 as he views the beginning of the Falklands-Malvinas War and the sinking of the battleship Belgrano. When Veronico doesn't respond to his letters, Maestro visits Chorcan and learns from an old friend (whose radio has broken, cutting him off

from national events) that Veronico has left town. He shows Maestro a picture of the 18-year-old, smiling Veronico with two companions in Navy garb, captioned "The Lads from the Belgrano."

VERONICO CRUZ is not about the Falklands-Malvinas War, but about the individual's relationship to historical processes. While Pereira has been criticized for his leisurely, "artsy" portrayal of Veronico's childhood, as opposed to the telescoped narration of the last half-hour, the film's structure

and the understatement of its climax mimic the manner in which a single, distinct life is swallowed in the larger movements of the state. The irony of Veronico's story--that the teacher's appearance in Chorcan opened up a world to him that both fueled his dreams and proved his undoing--is one

instance of a national tragedy, in which a naive schoolbook patriotism and dreams of glory led many to simply accept military rule and warmongering. Pereira underscores this point with parallel images, first of the flag-waving, chanting fervor of Chorcan's residents as they cheer for Argentina

during the radio broadcast of a World Cup soccer match, later of the flag-waving, chanting fervor of city residents (in TV footage) in support of the taking of the Malvinas. Pereira also parallels the lives of Veronico and his father; both leave their culturally "backward" environment and

disappear as a consequence of "civilized" state decisions. Moreover, Pereira establishes a strong link between mass culture--from historical comics and textbooks to national icons such as Belgrano, to radio broadcasts of sports events--and nationalism, indicating what powerful instruments such

apparently innocuous and discrete phenomena can be in the workings of history and in the hands of a totalitarian regime. As the people of Jujuy slowly lose their regional distinctness and gain in educational opportunity, they are robbed of their natural defense against partaking in a national

destiny. The inevitability of this process is also suggested in the steady shift of emphasis from Veronico's story to the more sophisticated, sadder point of view of Maestro.

The scenes of life in Chorcan are very beautiful indeed, with impressive images from Pereira and cinematographer Gerry Feeny of the spare but majestic landscape, the changing light of the high skies, and the vast, white salt flat that comes to symbolize the bitter end of Veronico's seafaring

dreams. The acting is uniformly fine, with just the right balance of naivete and dignity in the performances and in the dialog by Pereira and cowriter Eduardo Leiva Muller. (In Spanish; English subtitles.) (Adult situations.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: VERONICO CRUZ is the impressive feature film debut of Argentine director Miguel Pereira, who graduated from the London Film School on the day Argentine troops invaded the Falklands (Malvinas) Islands, precipitating the 1982 war between Argentina and the Un… (more)

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