The Day Silence Died

on December 08, 2000 by Jordan Reed
   With the constant influx--and almost immediate subsequent enhancement--of communication technology today, it's hard to imagine any invention striking with a future-altering newness. But that's what happens when a brilliantly-mustachioed disc jockey named Abelardo (Dario Grandinetti, looking like Dylan McDermott in a Rollie Fingers biopic) comes to the small Bolivian town of Villaserena, a peaceful place--hence the name--unaccustomed to modern conveniences such as electricity. After setting up speakers throughout and drawing people in with music and news, Abelardo starts selling air time to the local rubes, who take the opportunity to broadcast their private squabbles to the entire village. Originally out to bilk pesos from the hapless inhabitants, Abelardo falls for the voluptuous Celeste (Maria Laura Garcia), a young woman literally chained to her father Ruperto (Elias Serrano) since her mother ran off with a traveling actor years before. As the on-air rants get more and more heated, the once-tranquil town becomes unhinged, as does the smitten DJ after realizing a local young farmer (Guillermo Granda) is also after the imprisoned Celeste's heart.

   Abelardo's broadcasts have a South American "Northern Exposure" feel to them initially, and Agazzi starts off providing touches similar to the cozy, insulated lives on that unique TV series. But his characters wind up one-dimensional and inconsistent, and his conceit of having the story told through the omniscient eyes of local writer Oscar (Gustavo Angarita), toying with the possibility that he's created the events, serves more to disrupt the flow of the picture than infuse it with the romantic influence of magical realism. Instead of subtly alluding to the dangers inherent in introducing modernity to a blissfully unwitting audience, Agazzi would rather broadcast that idea as loudly as the townsfolk do their partners' infidelities.    Starring Dario Grandinetti, Gustavo Angarita and Elias Serrano. Directed by Paolo Agazzi. Written by Paolo Agazzi and Guillermo Aguiree. Produced by Martin Proctor. A First Run release. Comedy/Drama. Spanish-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 112 min.

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