by Antonio Cabello
Review of The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (La larga noche de Francisco Sanctis), directed by Francisco Márquez and Andrea Testa. Argentina.
Suddenly, the phone rings. It’s Elena (Valeria Lois). And that’s how it all starts. Surprise meets curiosity in the face of Francisco Sanctis (Diego Velázquez): Elena claims she wants to publish a poem from his student years. Except there’s an ulterior reason to the call, as Francisco will discover once they meet, and it is related to his past.
Now the year is 1977, and Argentina is going through a military dictatorship, a period of terror known as The Process. It is at dusk that Francisco is given information regarding the whereabouts of two people, both of whom ignore that the military is searching for them, and whose lives now hinge on whether Francisco warns them about it or not.
Night falls, shot in variou orange, brown and grayish tints, and his journey begins. There are no stars to guide the way, nothing to shine a light. For the first time in many years, Francisco Sanctis will be conscious of time – of the present as well as the past.
The film is masterfully directed by debutants Francisco Márquez and Andrea Testa, who carefully craft an atmosphere where silence thunders and threat looms just off camera. Fear is shuffled ominously, and most ominous of all is the memory of a meme poem capable of breaking free of its fictional bubble, it’s pretended normality.
In essence, until Francisco receives that one unexpected phone call hailing from his past he was but a grim 40 year old, a simple family man waiting for a job promotion, leading a life free from any sort of political commitment. With that particular bubble broken and the titular “long night” initiated, directors Márquez and Testa scrawl over the outstanding visage of Velázquez a powerful study on guilt and fear, emotions that transcend time and place.
Antonio Cabello / Writer (Jaén, Spain – 1993) Producer and editor for Fremantlemedia Spain on TV shows, he studied journalism and audiovisual communication at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. He also studied poetry, humanism and film criticism. Five years ago he founded Esencia Cine, for which he has covered the Cannes and San Sebastián film festivals. Life is time.