Saturday, 2 October 2010

LFF 2010 Review : The Peddler (El Ambulante)

This wonderfully charming and heartwarming documentary follows maverick amateur filmmaker Daniel Burmeister as he arrives at the small Argentinian village of Benjamin Gould with a proposition for its mayor. In exchange for food and lodgings, he’ll make a movie in the village, using locals for cast and crew. It’s a service he peddles throughout the country, travelling from village to village directing from the same 4 or 5 self-penned scripts, and culminating in a premiere in the town hall for everyone to see themselves on the big screen (or big sheet).
Armed with his VHS camcorder and larger-than-life personality, Burmeister brings the whole community together, knocking on doors to invite people to his auditions (“I’ve decided that everybody will be acting in the film”) and convincing firemen and taxi drivers to help out in the action sequences. Those initially reluctant soon get involved, with one local especially seduced by performing in front of a camera (“I think I’d like to do something like The Godfather next…”). Having directed over 60 films, Burmeister embraces the spirit of Edward D Wood Jr, with a bag full of tricks for no-budget filmmaking. Mobile phones go off during shots, one of his actors has to leave when interrupted by his job as the village ambulance driver and the lack of rails for a dolly shot result in Daniel being dragged across the floor on a rug by two kids.
-          Burmeister : “By the way, do you know anyone who owns a camera, or knows anything about filming?”
Presenting a beautiful picture of village life, we get to know members of the community brought together by Burmeister for a singular purpose and his effortless charm and kindly and encouraging way with people make him great company for the duration of the film, like an old-fashioned kind of western hero, riding into town at the start and out at the end like Shane in a disintegrating old Ford. As one of the villagers says, “the outcome of the film is less important than its effects on the community”, and The Peddler, like Burmeister’s own film within the documentary, celebrates both the spirit of community and maverick, independent filmmaking of perhaps the purest type.
The Peddler (El Ambulante) – 2009 – Argentina – 84 mins – Dir : Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano, Adriana Yurcovich
Screening as part of the World Cinema strand at the London Film Festival on Sunday 17th, Tuesday 19th & Wednesday 20th October. Tickets available at

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