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Vassilis Kroustallis review the Argentinian animation feature Lava by Ayar Blasco.

This is not the first cinematic apocalypsis effort by the Argentinian Ayar Blasco, whose El Sol (2010) can be viewed online.  In Lava, a welcome COVID-19 satire that doesn't take itself that seriously enough, four youngster, Lázaro, Aníbal, Nidia and the shy but competent tattoo artist Débora get into a mission to save the world.

The starting point is the lack of screen diversity: when all screens are suddenly tuned in to an incomprehensible-looking, Jurassic-park charcoal ancestor images -which make them hypnotized all the same- a chaos will suddenly erupt in Buenos Aires. Normal traffic becomes a thing to worry, and giants cats are ready to invade the city, unless a suitable antidote is found.

And perhaps there is an antidote: a LAVA graphic novel creator ensures all characters that old school comics are immune to global surveillance. The only thing the characters need to do is to follow its instructions.

Lava is a film which shifts between being a B-movie on social and personal relationships, and a more comic underground effort to save the city (from magic witches with brooms, among them). The character design (small eye slits in big uniform faces) also points out toward self-mockery but curiosity as well; what are those eyes meant to experience?

The film performs well when it goes into self-reflection (and, at time, even addressing the audiences themselves). Both the determined but inexperienced Débora and her friends are really interesting characters; they enrich their potential (and the film's own interest) when they are together discussing their troubles, and -this is no big secret- the variety of their romantic relations.

Things get blander when the various plot tribulations appear; in its 67 minutes, Lava does not have enough time to handle all its invasion and post-Apocalyptic themes, and the interesting (and politically tinged) issues of resistance and counter-resistance become as short-lived as the antidote they use to tame their wild cat enemies.

Lava is a film to be enjoyed for its engaged take on art and its young practitioners, without taking the road of  gory details and horror in its monster depiction. It is not a post-apocalyptic meditation and commentary, it is a play on how to stay together (and argue all the times) during moments of crisis.

Vassilis Kroustallis

Lava, 2019
Directed by: Ayar BLASCO | Production: Florencia FRANCO, CRUDO FILMS, Jimena MONTEOLIVA | Based on: "Lava", Salvador Sanz
Artistic direction: Ayar Blasco | Script: Salvador Sanz, Ayar Blasco, Nicolás Britos | Animation: Sebastián Ramseg | Compositing: Damila Veniani, Agustina Tuduri | Voice: Sofía Gala Castiglione, Ayar Blasco, Martín Piroyansky, Justina Bustos, Darío Lopilato, Señorita Bimbo, Martín Garabal

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