National film survey: a canon to recover the past and speak to the future

Between 1977 and 2000, the Pablo C. Ducros Hicken Film Museum carried out four editions (1977, 1984, 1991 and 2000) of the survey that determined, through the vote of film specialists, which were the 100 best national films of all the time. Then, for 22 years, the survey was interrupted, leaving the entire 21st century out of the canon.

This year, that silence was broken: it was presented within the framework of the Mar del Plata Festival, thanks to the initiative of the specialized magazines La vida útil, La tierra quema and Taipei, with various elements from La Plata in its ranks, a new edition, with the primary objective of “bringing the history of our cinema closer to new generations of moviegoers”.

The survey, said its directors, arose as a result of chance: both Taipei and La vida útil were planning to revive the survey, albeit on a smaller scale, when they met at BAFICI and discovered that they were behind the same objective. They joined La tierra quema and, with the drive of all the sisterly wills, they brought together 546 members of the country’s film community from all technical and theoretical fields to vote for their ten favorites.

The survey established “La ciénaga” (2001), by Lucrecia Martel, as the most voted film, followed by “Invasion” (1969), by Hugo Santiago; “Time for revenge” (1981), by Adolfo Aristarain; “The Salesman” (1969) and “Chronicle of a Single Child” (1965), both by Leonardo Favio. The next five positions include two documentaries, “La hora de los hornos” (by Fernando Pino Solanas and Octavio Getino, 1968) and “Juan, as if nothing had happened” (Carlos Echeverría, 1987); two New Argentine Cinema films, “Pizza Birra y faso” (Bruno Stagnaro, 1998) and “Silvia Prieto” (Martín Rejtman, 1999), and a genre film that, like the film by Aristarain, which is also among the ten most chosen, says a lot about their time: “Nine queens” (Fabián Bielinsky, 2000).

Álvaro Bretal, part of the Taipei team, outlined in an article in Infobae some conclusions from the new ranking: the appearance of two documentaries among the first ten is surprising, but not so much the drop in the list of films such as “Camila” or “La historia oficial”, part of that “80s cinema” today regarded with a certain amount of contempt.

But “the most significant absence from the new survey deserves a separate paragraph,” says Bretal. “If among the most voted films in the last survey of the Film Museum several from the so-called classic period appeared, all prior to 1960, in the 2022 survey the first film prior to 1965 only appears in position number 14 (‘Las aguas bajan cloudy’)”.

“This”, he affirms, “may be related to the importance given by the new generations to the cinema of the NCA and later, which necessarily pushes other films to lower positions, but also with a more distant relationship with classic cinema, which tends to be easily accessible on the Internet but, with a few happy exceptions, can only be seen —and heard— in very poor quality (with the appearance of ‘an image filtered through a half-dirty cloth’, as Ramiro Sonzini rightly said in the presentation of the survey).

And there the main mission, precisely, of the survey: the recovery of the cinematographic past. Restore the bond, the curiosity, of moviegoers for classic Argentine cinema, and at the same time remove the hornet’s nest about the absence of that cinema, an absence caused by another absence, that of a State that would protect that cultural heritage and avoid irreparable ruin of so many movies

“Not having public policies for the preservation of our audiovisual memory means that the Argentine film photo is missing parts,” said Paula Félix-Didier in Mar del Plata as a call to attention to the creation pending since 1999 of the National Cinematheque.

“In this sense, the survey is not a point of arrival, but rather a starting point. The maximum objective is that there is more talk about national cinema, that films are seen and discussed, that more books are published and also dossiers on Argentine cinema in film criticism magazines and websites, that cycles and projections emerge, that films can be seen in better quality. Fundamentally, that the State pays more attention to cinema, strengthening not only production, but also the dissemination and preservation of the cinematographic history of our country”, writes Bretal in this regard.

That is why, in this sense, on the survey website,, you can visit not only the general results and the elections of each voter, but also, if available, each film has a link to see it by the public on some platform.

The ten most chosen of the new canon

“The swamp” (2001).
Lucrecia Martel

“Invasion” (1969).
Hugo Santiago

“Time for revenge” (1981).
Adolfo Aristarain.

“The salesman” (1969).
Leonardo Favio.

“Chronicle of a lonely child” (1965).
Leonardo Favio.

“The hour of the ovens” (1968).
Octavio Getino and Pino Solanas.

“Juan, as if nothing had happened” (1987).
Carlos Echeverria.

“Pizza, beer, faso” (1998).
Bruno Stagnaro and Adrian Caetano.

“Silvia Prieto” (1999).
Martin Rejtman.

“Nine Queens” (2000).
Fabián Bielinsky.