Martin Benchimol (director)
Domestic worker Justina (60) inherits a huge manor in the country from her lifelong employer, under the promise of never selling it. This dream-like inheritance turns into a nightmare when Justina decides to move in with her daughter Alexia and tries to keep up the house without money.
Justina (60) is a domestic worker who inherits a huge manor in the country from her lifelong employer, under the promise of never selling it. This dream-like inheritance turns into a nightmare when Justina decides to move in with her daughter Alexia and tries to keep up the house without money. Along with the house, Justina inherits 20 cows that become her only capital. Economic austerity drives her to generate new income: she charges a ridiculously low fee to people who fish in the castle's marsh, and she is forced to sell a cow every month in order to pay municipal taxes.
I met the Justina and Alexia four years ago. I was doing research for my previous film, El espanto (The Dread), scouting a tiny town of Buenos Aires Province for healers for the movie. We stumbled upon a dirt road which turned out to be a dead end and found the castle. That day Justina and Alexia offered to host us during shooting, so for the next two years the Castle became our headquarters during the making of El espanto, and I also came back to visit many times for birthdays and other celebrations. When I found out that Alexia wanted to go back to the city and her mother would be left alone in the manor, I decided to make this movie.
My bond with Justina and Alexia allows me to imagine a film told from a “cohabitant” camera, which appears to be living there with them. I imagine a camera that will in fact be observational on many occasions. But I would also like to recreate scenes, situations that I experienced with the protagonists. That’s why the film's tone lies on a blurry line between documentary and fiction. I would like to approach the film with certain humorousness. The huge paradox of ownership, social inequality, glamour and decadence are elements that I want to bring into play in this project. This story sums up the contradictions of the system we live in, where material riches respond to the social class. And, even in this story where a giant inheritance seems like the opportunity for social class advancement, that doesn't happen. The second version of the script is currently being developed. The project was presented to the Argentine Film Institute to obtain funds for the production. At the same time, we are looking for other funds to make the shooting this year, since one of the protagonists will leave the house and we need to have resources to film before and during that event.
Martín Benchimol is an Argentinian filmmaker born in 1985. He has a degree in Image and Sound Design from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). There he served as teacher at the Chair of Screenwriting, as well as at the Chair of Cinematography. He has studied Acting Coaching with María Alché (“Familia sumergida (A Family Submerged)”) and Alejandro Catalán, among others. As a screenwriter and filmmaker, he has directed two documentary films: El Espanto (The Dread), premiered internationally at IDFA 2017 where it won the IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary. Then the film won the Special Jury Prize at the Guadalajara International Film Festivalm, the Silver Horn at the Kraków Film Festival and the New Talent Award at Docs Barcelona. Featured in several festivals, such as the Sheffield Doc Fest, the Havana Film Festival, among others. La gente del río (The River People) (2012) was premiered at Dok Leipzig and made an interesting international round, being featured in festivals such as the Guadalajara International Film Festival, the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, the Baghdad International Film Festival, the New Zealand International Film Festival, among others. It was also nominated for Best Documentary Film at the 4th Cinema Tropical Awards of New York. After being featured with his two films in DocuLab Guadalajara, he has been invited to participate as tutor for documentary projects in editing stage. He is currently developing his third film, called El castillo (The Castle).