By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Austin’s Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has arrived once again and the twenty-one year-old fest kicked off their five day event with an opening night film from the Spanish speaking country of Argentina. A Spanish and Argentinean co-production, El Ultimo Traje (The Last Suit) handles the very difficult and often painful subject of the Holocaust. However, writer/director Pablo Solarz manages to make a film that not only acknowledges this pain very well, but also includes some delightful comedy and some heartwarming and uplifting beats. The movie is definitely an emotional crowd-pleaser that, if given the chance, should win the hearts of audiences all over the world.
Abraham Bursztein (Miguel Ángel Solá) might not be facing the most difficult time of his life, but it is surely a frustrating and irritating one. Now 88 years-old, Abraham has been persuaded by his daughters to give up his house and move to retirement home where he can be under regular observation and treatment for a bad leg that impedes his ability to walk normally. On the last day at his home, an old discovery reminds him of a promise he made a friend many years ago. Immediately after World War II and his release from a Jewish concentration camp, a much younger Abraham finds himself in very poor health and barely surviving in Poland. Abraham gets taken in by another young man who takes care of him and helps him recover. So before he gets locked up in a retirement facility, Abraham decides to journey back to Poland and present his old friend with a gift he had promised him long ago. The trip is not only difficult for Abraham physically, but is also mentally taxing, as he must revisit some old mental wounds he has repressed for so many years.
Writer/director Pablo Solarz has made truly extraordinary film with El Ultimo Traje. Solarz has done some exceptional work in combining the pathos of the Holocaust with some wonderful and hilarious humor that develops from a sometimes cantankerous, but sly octogenarian. Solarz develops his protagonist beautifully showing the deep, personal pain he feels from his dark, torturous past, but also gives him a determination, inner strength and pride that have prevailed throughout the character’s life. Actor Miguel Ángel Solá gives an fantastic performance as Abraham, a grumpy old man who is also a bit of a rebel and charmer. His portrayal of Abraham shows an incredible range of emotions, and handles both dramatic and comedic moments superbly. Both actor Miguel Ángel Solá and writer/director Pablo Solarz deserve high praise and accolades for their outstanding work on this film.
And this film is only one of many films playing the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival in the coming days. Every year, I am impressed with their programming and that’s what has kept me attending several times already. The festival will continue on until Sunday, May 6 with an excellent mix of films from multiple countries and cultures in several languages, including English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Go to https://cinelasamericas.org/for more information on the festival and on how to attend the remaining screenings, some of which are free to the public.