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LA NInA SANTA aka THE HOLY GIRL
USA: Fine Line Features
UK: Artificial Eye
Cast: Mercedes Moran, Carlos Belloso, Alejandro Urdapilleta, Maria Alche, Julieta Zylberberg, Mia Maestro, Marta Lubos, Arturo Goetz, Alejo Mango, Monica Villa
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Countries: Argentina / Spain / Italy
Language: Spanish (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 106 mins
USA Rated: R for some sexual content and brief nudity
UK Certificate: 15 contains moderate sex
USA Release Date: 29 April 2005 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 4 February 2005 (Limited Release)
With her award-winning feature-film debut, LA CIeNAGA (THE SWAMP) (2001), writer-director Lucrecia Martel emerged as one of the brightest figures of the new Argentinean cinema. In her follow up, the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Competition entry, LA NInA SANTA (THE HOLY GIRL), Martel intimately explores the burgeoning sexuality and religious fervor of two teenage girls, Amalia (Maria Alche) and her best friend, Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg). Artfully piecing together a mosaic of nuanced details, fragments of sounds, and small moments, Martel creates a potent and specific portrait of adolescent life.
In the town of La Cienaga, Amalia lives with her attractive, divorced mother, Helena (Mercedes Moran), and her uncle, Freddy (Alejandro Urdapilleta), in the crumbling, run-down Hotel Termas, which her family owns and runs.
After choir rehearsals the girls gather in the parish church for further instruction in faith and vocation. What does God want from me? How do I discern between the temptation of the Devil and the calling of God? In between the teachings, the girls gossip and whisper secretively.
The lives of the girls and their families intersect with those of a group of visiting orhinolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists) staying at the hotel for a medical convention, including the married, middle-aged Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso).
One day, a crowd of people gather in the street to watch a man play an unusual, exotic instrument: a theremin. Amalia is in the crowd when a man standing behind her presses himself sexually against her. Later, in the hotel, she discovers that this man is Dr. Jano, one of the doctors attending the conference.
Amalia finds herself drawn to the Doctor and for days she spies on him. Dr. Jano never notices her presence, but he does notice her mother, Helena. Helena greatly enjoys the attention from this man, but she has little hope as she knows he is married and has a family.
Days afterward Amalia confides in Josefina what occurred in the street with Dr. Jano and of her secret mission: to save one man from sin. Dr. Jano becomes caught up in Amalia's web of good intentions and the respected doctor finds his world is on the brink of collapse when her adolescent obsession sets off a chain reaction of social catastrophe.
Understanding the temptation of good - and the evil it causes - LA NInA SANTA (THE HOLY GIRL) delicately explores themes of sin, frustration and desire. The film is an outstanding study of the sexual awakening of a teenage girl and tells the story of the sixteen year old Amalia, marvellously played by the young actress Maria Alche, whose innocent chance encounter with an older man sets in train a web of confusion and often funny misunderstandings. The film is brilliantly oblique in its visual style and with a palpable sense of longing and sexual tension.
It was Martel's first film that impressed Pedro Almodóvar, who, in turn, inspired his producer-brother Augustin to approach LA CIeNAGA producer, Lita Stantic, about collaborating on Martel's follow-up project, LA NInA SANTA. It was Lita Stantic who helped launch Martel's career after viewing her short films.
THE HOLY GIRL is written and directed by Lucrecia Martel and produced by Lita Stantic. The film stars Mercedes Moran, Carlos Belloso, and Maria Alche The executive producers are Pedro Almodovar, Agustin Almodovar, and Esther Garcia.