picture in picture

Cinedigm Docurama Goes Global

'Vivan Las Antipodas' takes viewers to the ends of the Earth

By Monica Riese, 3:15PM, Tue. Apr. 30, 2013

Cinedigm Docurama Goes Global

Vivan Las Antipodas is the prettiest cultural documentary you've never seen.

The second installment in the Cinedigm Docurama series screening at the Alamo Drafthouse for the next six weeks, Vivan Las Antipodas studies eight cities across six continents by pairing them off in four sets with one location the on the exact opposite side of the world from the other (that is to say: antipodes): Argentina and China, Hawaii and Botswana, Spain and New Zealand, Chile and Russia.

To be fair, it's hardly even accurate to call the Victor Kossakovsky project a documentary: Completely sans interviews (and, at least in the press screening version, subtitles for the Spanish introductory text) or decipherable dialogue, Vivan Las Antipodas tells relatable human tales through immersion – nothing so severe as Leviathan, perhaps, but immersion nonetheless. It's real Planet Earth stuff, which only a big screen can do justice. And in that way, the humans – possibly some of the most isolated in their respective areas – are decidedly secondary to the breathtaking pans across gorgeous landscapes, but it's their lands we're investigating for the next 108 minutes.

At first, it's easy to see only harsh contrasts between worlds: The film takes the quiet pastoral scene of Argentina and sets it sharply against Shanghai's hustle and bustle. Argentina's solitary trucks and a fluffy dog wandering expansive hills are exchanged for heavy traffic, quiet ravines are replaced by snaking snarls of highway, and silent sunsets are overcome by squeaking and squealing industrialism.

And, indeed, the visual cue to denote when we've burrowed to the other side of the globe is a 180-degree camera flip, literally turning each worldview it on its head by contrasting one land with another. (It's effective at first, but grows dizzying and tiresome by the end; we get it.)

But soon enough, similarities begin to emerge from the juxtapositions. Man's best friend, for example, seems to hold that status in both hemispheres, and sometimes you can just make out a reflection of a skyline in that rippling lake isolated in South America. Regardless of setting, the human story is not so different in some corners of this marble we call home, and at the end of the day, we're all under the very same sky.

Vivan Las Antipodas screens tonight as part of the Cinedigm Docurama film series: Thursday, April 30, 7pm, Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane. Catch an encore screening next weekend at Alamo Drafthouse Village: Saturday, May 4, 4pm, or Sunday, May 5, 1pm. A pre-taped Q&A with the director will follow each screening.

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