Watching a Spanish movie is a great way to improve your Spanish and help you tune your ear into the language’s colloquialisms, particularly when it comes to castellano and its unique pronunciation and slang. Argentina has a booming movie industry and has turned out some great Argentine films, which will not only help you improve your listening skills and vocabulary but give you a bit more insight into Argentina’s storied history and cultural and social nuances. Here are our top five picks:
Relatos Salvaje (black comedy, drama, 2014)
This Oscar-nominated film tells six unrelated tales of drastic human behavior and loss of control. Since the narrative changes every 20 minutes, your concentration never falters and the film covers a broad range of themes (and vocabulary), from a plane scene in which every passenger on the plane shares a common tie with a certain Pasternak to an incident involving a loan shark and rat poison in a highway diner, a face off in the desert, a hit and run, and a Jewish wedding party gone wrong. It also has an all-star cast of Argentine actors including the much-loved Ricardo Darín. If you’ve spent a decent amount of time in Argentina, you’ll pick up on the film’s satire and will be able to relate to some of the social and cultural references.
El Secreto de Sus Ojos (mystery, crime, 2009)
If you like watching the crime shows on Netflix then you’ll enjoy this Argentine whodunit movie. Winning Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, it’s one of Argentina’s most famous productions. Directed by Juan José Campanella, it’s a gripping murder mystery set in Buenos Aires starring Ricardo Darín as retired criminal investigator Benjamín Espósito, who, plagued by events in his past career, decides to write a novel revisiting the unsolved mystery of a rape and murder case in the 70s. Flashbacks reveal some surprising developments in the sequence of events as well as an unrequited love interest in the form of Espósito’s old colleague and Judge Irene Menéndez Hastings (played by famous Argentine actress Soledad Villamil). The film also touches on Argentina’s awful historical past during the time of the military junta and the desparecidos (the disappeared). And the final twist isn’t quite what you expect...
Nos Sos Vos, Soy Yo (romantic comedy, 2004)
This is your typical, lighthearted rom-com for a Sunday afternoon. Starring another one of Argentina’s favorite male actors Diego Peretti, the film tells the story of a young surgeon Javier who, bored of his life in Argentina, decides to move to Miami with his wife Maria (Soledad Villamil). His wife goes to the US first and in the time it takes Javier to pack up his life, she has met someone else and leaves him in a classic “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario. Predictably Diego goes through a low period, desperately trying to get his mojo back in a comedic fashion. Just as he meets someone else (a cute girl who works at the pet shop) his ex Maria comes back to him and the tables are turned.
Valentín (drama, 2002)
This heartwarming drama centers on the life of a cute little eight-year-old boy named Valentín who wears thick-rimmed black glasses, builds model rockets and dreams of being an astronaut with NASA. He lives with his grandmother in Buenos Aires (his Jewish mother having been kicked out by his philandering, antisemitic father who is rarely around). Wise for his years, Valentin’s closest friends are his uncle and a piano teacher that lives across the street and the film recounts the touching ways he tries to solve the problems of the grown-ups around him. Since the protagonist and narrator is a young boy, the dialogue and vocab is quite easy to follow and you’ll recognize a lot of the places around Buenos Aires where the movie was filmed.
Madraza (action, 2017)
Released just this year by successful first-time filmmaker, writer and producer Hernan Aguilar, this indie Argentine film has received a lot of hype (even catching the attention of Walt Disney who bought the rights). The madraza (godmother) is a humble, low-class housewife living in the slums of Buenos Aires whose life is turned around when she becomes an assassin for money. Then the police detective instructed to investigate her ends up taking a shine to her. It’s an entertaining mix of classic action and black comedy that deals with issues of corruption and gender, with some impressive action scenes thrown in.
TOP TIPS FOR WATCHING MOVIES IN SPANISH:
If you’re a beginner, start by watching the movie with English subtitles on. When you feel a bit more confident, move to Spanish subtitles until you reach the point when you don’t need any subtitles.
Don’t worry about understanding every single word or conversation. If there are any major scenes you don’t understand, play them back a few times or put the subtitles on.
Take the time to look words up, write them down, and then take the time to look over them.