La Ciénaga (film)

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La Ciénaga
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lucrecia Martel
Produced by Lita Stantic
Written by Lucrecia Martel
Starring Graciela Borges
Mercedes Morán
Martín Adjemián
Daniel Valenzuela
Cinematography Hugo Colace
Edited by Santiago Ricci
Lita Stantic Producciones
Distributed by Cowboy Pictures
Cinema Tropical
Release date
  • February 8, 2002 (2002-02-08) (Germany)
  • March 8, 2001 (2001-03-08) (Argentina)
  • October 2, 2001 (2001-10-02) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes
Country Argentina
Language Spanish

La Ciénaga ([la ˈsjenaɣa] English: The Swamp) is a 2001 Argentine, Spanish, and French film, written and directed by Lucrecia Martel. The film was executive produced by Ana Aizenberg, Diego Guebel, Mario Pergolini, and produced by Lita Stantic. The picture features Graciela Borges, Mercedes Morán, Martín Adjemián, Daniel Valenzuela, among others.[1]

The picture is set in the high plains of northwestern Argentina and portrays the life of a self-pitying Argentine bourgeois family.


The film tells the story of Mecha (Graciela Borges), a middle-aged woman in her 50s who has several teenagers. Her husband Gregorio (Martín Adjemián) wants to remain looking young, and both of them have to deal with their gloomy Amerindian servants, whom Mecha accuses of theft and laziness. Both Mecha and Gregorio take to drinking to cope with day-to-day living.

In order to avoid the hot and humid weather of the city, the family spends their summers in their rural shabby country home that they have named "La Mandragora".

Mecha's cousin, Tali (Mercedes Morán), lives in the nearby city of La Ciénaga (The Swamp, in English) and has a brood of small, noisy children and a husband, Rafael (Daniel Valenzuela), who loves his family and also hunts.

Before long, the crowded domestic situation in both homes strains the families' nerves, exposing repressed family mysteries, and tensions that threaten to erupt into violence.



Director Lucrecia Martel has said in media interviews that the story is based on "memories of her own family."[2] She has also said, "I know what kind of film I've made. Not a very easy one! For me, it's not a realistic film. It's something strange, a little weird. It's the kind of film where you can't tell what's going to happen, and I wanted the audience to be very uncomfortable from the beginning."[3]

Filming location
The film was shot entirely in Martel's home town, Salta, in Salta Province, Argentina.


The film was first featured at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 8, 2001. It opened in Argentina on March 8, 2001 at the Mar del Plata Film Festival, and enjoyed wide release in Argentina on April 12, 2001.

The drama was also shown at various film festivals, including: the Karlovy Vary Film Festival; the Toronto International Film Festival; the New York Film Festival; the Warsaw Film Festival; International Film Festival, Rotterdam; the Titanic International Filmpresence Festival, Hungary; the Adelaide International Film Festival; the Uruguay International Film Festival; and the Havana Film Festival, Cuba.

In the United States, it was presented at the New York Film Festival on October 2, 2001. It also opened in Los Angeles on October 12, 2001.

Critical reception[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on thirty-six reviews.[4] It also holds a 75/100 on Metacritic.[5] Writing for The New York Times, critic Stephen Holden liked Lucrecia Martel's debut film, and called it "remarkable," writing, "The steamy ambiance in which the characters fester is a metaphor for creeping social decay...La Ciénaga perspires from the screen, it creates a vision of social malaise that feels paradoxically familiar and new."[6]

Critic David Lipfert also liked the director's various sociological messages and metaphors contained in the film. He believes the "New Argentina Cinema" is moving beyond the themes related to the military dictatorship period of the late 1970s and early 1980s. He wrote, "[Martel's] intense, in-your-face portrait of a dissolute middle class lacks the usual justifying criminal context. Martel simply holds up a mirror to Argentine society, and the result is devastating. Instead of creating an allegory with archetypes, she shows characters that are all too real. When still, her camera is low and close as though we were right on top of the actors."[7]

When the film opened in New York City, the film critic for The Village Voice Amy Taubin wrote, "Lucrecia Martel's La Ciénaga is a veritable Chekhov tragicomedy of provincial life. Making a brilliant debut, Martel constructs her narrative from quotidian incidents, myriad comings and goings, and a cacophony of voices competing for attention...[i]n a debut feature that's assured in every aspect, Martel's direction of the younger members of her cast is particularly notable."[8]

According to review aggregator They Shoot Pictures, Don't They, it is the 76th most acclaimed film since 2000.[9]



  • Berlin International Film Festival: Alfred Bauer Prize, Lucrecia Martel; 2001.
  • Havana Film Festival: Best Actress, Graciela Borges; Best Director, Lucrecia Martel; Best Sound, Hervé Guyader, Emmanuel Croset, Guido Berenblum, Adrián De Michele; Grand Coral - First Prize, Lucrecia Martel; 2001.
  • Toulouse Latin America Film Festival: French Critics' Discovery Award, Lucrecia Martel; Grand Prix, Lucrecia Martel; 2001.
  • Uruguay International Film Festival: First Work Award - Special Mention, Lucrecia Martel; 2001.
  • Uruguayan Film Critics Association: UFCA Award Best Latin American Film; 2001.
  • Argentine Film Critics Association Awards: Silver Condor; Best Actress, Graciela Borges; Best Cinematography, Hugo Colace; Best First Film, Lucrecia Martel; 2002.


  • Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear, Lucrecia Martel; 2001.
  • Argentine Film Critics Association Awards: Silver Condor; Best Art Direction, Graciela Oderigo; Best Director, Lucrecia Martel; Best Film; Best Original Screenplay, Lucrecia Martel; Best Supporting Actress, Mercedes Morán; 2002.
  • MTV Movie Awards, Latin America: MTV Movie Award, MTV South Feed (mostly Argentina) - Favorite Film, Lucrecia Martel; 2002.


  1. ^ La ciénaga on Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Taubin, Amy. The Village Voice, "Temples of the Familiar," film review, October 3–9, 2001.
  3. ^ Telegraph. Film review and interview with Martel, October, 2001.
  4. ^ La Ciénaga at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: February 18, 2008.
  5. ^ "The Swamp Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 16, 2016. 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen. The New York Times, "Summertime, and the Living Is Approaching Unbearable," October 1, 2001. Last accessed: December 14, 2007.
  7. ^ Lipfert, David., film review, October 12, 2001.
  8. ^ Taubin, Amy. Ibid.
  9. ^ "Lucrecia Martel's Acclaimed Films". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They. Retrieved October 16, 2016. 

External links[edit]