Las ranas [The Frogs] (2020)

Las ranas
Director: Edgardo Castro
Writer: Edgardo Castro
Cast: Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli, Nahuel Cabral, Gabriela Illarregui, María Eugenia Stillo
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 12.12.2020

Barbara (Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli) is one of the women called Las ranas – the frogs. That means she visits her boyfriend (Nahuel Cabral) in prison as much as she can. The prison is far and the visits are a strenuous addition to her everyday struggle to raise enough funds just to live. But she unfailingly goes, bringing food and whatever else is allowed and even what isn’t. Sometimes she also brings their daughter.

Las ranas is a fiction film that feels very much like a documentary. That has advantages but also disadvantages, and here and there I was wishing it would stick more to narrative conventions for fiction.

The film poster in simple grass green with a black frog on it.

There is very little background information for this film and at times it even gets credited as a documentary. The main character shares her first name with the actor who’s playing her, so I don’t know exactly how they made the film – but I can imagine that Stanganelli is not a professional actor but plays a version of herself.

Be that as it may, the resulting film often feels like a documentary in the way it doesn’t make many introductions. We get plopped into Barbara’s life and are left to figure things out for ourselves – and often can’t. Who is the man she is living with? What kind of perspectives does her boyfriend have? I mean, is he in prison for 6 months or a lifetime? I couldn’t tell you.

Barbara (Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli) visiting her boyfriend (Nahuel Cabral) in prison.

This was part of why I didn’t connect so much with the film. Another part was that I would have wished for more of a plot in the classic sense – a little more of a story and a little less “slice of life”. Although on the other hand this kind of close-to-the-ground filmmaking was of course one of the biggest strengths of the film, simply showing the everyday difficulties of a woman in Barbara’s situation.

There was interesting stuff here (much like with Sunless Shadows I was also intrigued by how differently prison looks around the world). But I couldn’t help but get fidgety as I watched the film, hoping for a little more than it gave me.

Barbara (Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli) taking the bus at night.

Summarizing: okay.

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