WHEN THE TRADITIONAL lines of documentary are allowed to blend into the messy whimsy of what fictional tales are about, real magic happens. A kind of universal sacred magic that speaks to what all of us are, as human beings. This is what you can anticipate in Maite Alberdi’s astonishingly fine piece, The Mole Agent, which features on this year’s Encounters International South African Documentary Film Festival, which runs from 10-20 June 2021, online and at the Bioscope in Johannesburg.
Playing on the tropes of spy thrillers, but with an undercurrent of an understanding of the hidden possibilities in abuse of the vulnerable, the story is premised on a private investigator, Romulo Aitken, working with a ‘mole’ to assist an investigation into a Chilean home for the elderly.
The story is a total privilege to behold. And it will take you to a perfect storm of tears and another of laughter. The successful applicant, Sergio Chamy, combined with astute filming and sensitive, wise editing, presents you, in the audience with a story about life, old age, death and love that will have you reaching for the tissue box from the very first scenario.
Skirting from a perceived need in doccies of this nature to toss in a lot of talking heads, or to sweeten up the tale with platitudes, the work is directed with a strong hand and is allowed to tell its story without obvious editorialising. It’s a raw and rich essay on what it means to be lonely, what it means to age and lose your grip on your health and sense of stability and above all, what it means to love. Again.
It doesn’t do what it baldly promises, but rather takes you on a journey that peeks into the lives of real people, that gives a face to dementia and the broken pieces that loss leaves in a person’s sense of self. It reveals a whole undercurrent of elderly neglect rather than abuse, that is heir to our society. The Mole Agent is one of those films, like Lebanese advocacy film Capernaum that will never leave you.
The Mole Agent in Spanish with English subtitles, is written, directed and produced by Maite Alberdi. It features creative input by Vincent van Warmerdam (music), Pablo Valdés (cinematography) and Carolina Siraqyan (editing), it features on the Encounters International South African Documentary Film Festival which runs from 10-20 June 2021, online and at the Bioscope in Johannesburg.