In 1896, French photographer
Eugene Py was working for the
Belgian Henri Lepage and the
Max Glücksmann at the 'Casa Lepage', a
Buenos Aires. The three all saw the debut of the Lumière Cinématographe in Argentina,"with a picture of the Lumiére's, took place on July 18, 1896"
 at the
Teatro Odéon, only a year after its debut in
Lepage then imported the first French cinematographic equipment into the country and though
Eugenio Py who, using a Gaumont camera in 1897, is often credited for the first Argentine film,
La Bandera Argentina (which consisted of a
flag of Argentina waving in the wind at the
Plaza de Mayo),
 the credit belongs to German-Brazilian
Federico Figner, who screened the first three Argentine films on 24 November 1896 (shorts depicting sights of Buenos Aires). Earning renown, Py continued to produce films for exhibition at the Casa Lepage for several years, following up with Viaje del Doctor Campos Salles a Buenos Aires (1900, considered the country's first
documentary) and La Revista de la Escuadra Argentina (1901); by that time, the first projection halls had opened, working as part of the cross-national film production,
exhibition system developed by Glücksmann in
(1914), the first full-length movie of national production.
Several Argentine artists continued to experime with the new invention, making news shorts and documentaries.
Eugenio A. Cardini filmed Escenas Callejeras (1901) and
Mario Gallo made the first Argentine film with a point-of-view: El fusilamiento de Dorrego ("
Dorrego's Execution," 1908). Other directors such as
Ernesto Gunche directed early documentaries.
Argentine history and
literature provided the themes of the first years of film-making. One of the first successes of the national cinema was Nobleza Gaucha of 1915, inspired by
Martín Fierro, the
gaucho poem by
José Hernández. Based on
José Mármol's novel,
Amalia (1914 film) was the first full-length movie of national production, and in 1917
El apóstol, a satiric short on
Hipólito Yrigoyen, became the first animated feature film in world cinema. Another notable 1917 debut, for Francisco Defilippis Novoa's Flor de durazno, was
Directors such as
José A. Ferreyra began to work on producing films in Argentine cinema, releasing films such as
Palomas rubias (1920),
La Gaucha (1921) and
Buenos Aires, ciudad de ensueño in 1922. Films that followed included
Corazón de criolla,
Melenita de oro,
Leyenda del puente inca (1923),
Mientras Buenos Aires duerme,
Arriero de Yacanto (1924) and
El Organito de la tarde and
Mi último tango (1925).
In 1926, Ferreyra released
La Vuelta al Bulín,
La Costurerita que dio aquel mal paso and
Muchachita de Chiclana followed by
Perdón, viejita (1927). Many of these Ferreyra films featured two of the decade's most popular stars,
Alvaro Escobar and
Towards the end of the decade, directors such as
Julio Irigoyen began to release films such as
Alma en pena in 1928. Films such as these began to feature the Argentine culture of
tango dancing into films, something which rocketed later in the 1930s after the advent of sound.
1930s–1950s: The Golden Age
Golden Age of Argentine cinema. From top (left to right):
Hugo del Carril
List of Argentine films:1930s
Adiós Argentina became the first Argentine film to have a soundtrack. The film starred actresses such as
Libertad Lamarque and
Ada Cornaro who both debuted in the film.
José A. Ferreyra directed Muñequitas porteñas, the first Argentine film to be made with
Vitaphone sound synchronisation. That year, Ferreyra made a second sound film,
El Cantar de mi ciudad, encouraging other early directors to make the transition to sound.
Movietone arrived in 1933 and it allowed both voice and music in motion pictures. The first two Argentine cinematographic studios were created:
Argentina Sono Film was founded by
Lumitón was created by a partnership led by
Enrique Susini, who was instrumental in the introduction of television to Argentina in 1951.
The first disc-less sound film was Tango (1931), directed by
Luis Maglia Barth and a key film of the period was the tango film
Dancing which saw the birth of a number of Argentine stars such as
Amelia Bence and
Tito Lusiardo; other popular actors from the era included
Floren Delbene and
Arturo García Buhr. Two such features which have endured in local culture are
Libertad Lamarque and
Casamiento en Buenos Aires, starring
Niní Marshall. The two 1939 films each featured themes that have become
Argentine musical standards, likewise immortalizing the two leading ladies.
Other films included:
El alma del bandoneón,
Mario Soffici, 1935; La muchacha de a bordo,
Manuel Romero, 1936;
Ayúdame a vivir, 1936 by Ferreyra;
Besos brujos (1937) by Ferreyra;
La vuelta al nido (
Leopoldo Torres Rios, 1938) and
Asi es la vida (1939) directed by
Manuel Romero was a prominent director of the mid-to-late 1930s and worked in
comedy based films often with rising Argentine star
Luis Sandrini in films such as
Don Quijote del altillo.
The film industry in Argentina reached a pinnacle in the late 1930s and 1940s when an average of forty-two films were produced annually. The films usually included tango, but even when a tango theme was omitted most cinema from this period still included humble heroes and wealthy villains.
 In these films, it portrayed hard work and poverty as ennobling and depicted the poor as the primary beneficiaries of Juan Perón's economic policies. These films, in part supported by Perón, were seen as part of the political agenda of peronism.
 By supporting a film industry that attacked greed and supported the working class, Perón was able to influence the attitudes of his constituency to build public appeal.
The growing popularity of the
cinema of the United States, pressure from the
Roman Catholic Church and increasing censorship during the
Perón presidency limited the growth of Argentine cinema somewhat, not least because harassment led to the exile of a number of prominent actors, among them
Alberto de Mendoza, Arturo García Buhr,
Niní Marshall and
Libertad Lamarque, whose rivalry with her colleague
Eva Duarte turned against her when the latter became First Lady in 1946. Argentine cinema began losing viewership as foreign titles gained an increasing foothold in the Argentine market. The problem eventually became so bad that Argentina tried to curb the influx with the Cinema Law of 1957, establishing the "Instituto Nacional de Cinematografía" to provide education and funding.
Among the era's most successful films were: Historia de una noche,
Luis Saslavsky, 1941; La dama duende, Luis Saslavsky, 1945; Malambro (
Lucas Demare and
Hugo Fregonese, 1945);
Luis César Amadori) starring
Pedro López Lagar (1947); Pelota de trapo (1948) and Crimen de Oribe (1950),
Leopoldo Torres Ríos; and
Las aguas bajan turbias, by
Hugo del Carril, 1952. One of the few Argentine actors who made a successful transition into directing was
Mario Soffici, who debuted behind the camera in 1935 to acclaim with El alma del bandoneón and went on to become an institution in Argentine film over the next generation; among his most memorable work was the film adaptation of
Marco Denevi's bestselling mystery,
Rosaura a la diez ("Rosaura at Ten O'Clock"), for whose 1958 screen release Soffici wrote, directed and starred.
In 1958, the film
Thunder Among the Leaves directed by
Armando Bó was released. The film featured the later sex-symbol
Isabel Sarli in her first starring role, and marked the beginning of her partnership with future husband Armando Bó, which would span almost three decades and made numerous
 Now considered a classic,
 a scene in which she bathes in a lake was the first one to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema.
 The film was a highly controversial box-office success; it has been described as a "boom" and "scandalous" and shocked the mostly Catholic Argentine society.
 In November 1958,
The News and Courier reported "[a] saucy Latin lass has smashed South American box office records with the most daring dunking since
Hedy Lamarr disrobed to fame in
 The movie's premiere in
Montevideo, Uruguay broke box office records, and Sarli's bath scene "rocked some Latin American capitals".
 However, Sarli was panned by fellow filmmakers for the nude scene.
The horror genre, little explored by Argentine film-makers, was explored by Argentine director
Narciso Ibáñez Menta.
Television, as in the
United States, began to exert pressure on the film market in the 1950s; on the air since the 1951 launch of Channel 7 (public television), Argentine television programming is the oldest in Latin America.
First "New Cinema"
Since the late 1950s a new generation of film directors took Argentine films to international film festivals. The first wave of such directors was
Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson,who "explored aristocratic decadence",
David Jose Kohon,
Simon Feldman and
Fernando "Pino" Solanas, who began by making La Hora de los Hornos ("Hour of the Furnaces", 1966–68) the first documentaries on the political unrest in late-1960s Argentina (at great risk to himself).
Directors such as
Tulio Demicheli and
Carlos Schlieper began to emerge who often both wrote and directed them. A second generation that achieved a cinematographic style were
José Martínez Suárez,
Manuel Antín and
1960s and 1970s
Kurt Land directed
El asalto in 1960 starring
Alberto de Mendoza, a crime drama shot in black and white.
Lautaro Murúa, a Chilean actor working in Argentine cinema directed
Alias Gardelito in 1961. The film showed strong political and social undertones and is about the difficulty of living an honest life in the face of an unrelenting
poverty. The title of this story is taken from the name of the great
Carlos Gardel, the idol of the
antihero Toribio portrayed by
Alberto Argibay. Toribio's goal in life is to emulate the famous singer and making his own way successfully in the music business. Yet at the same time, he does not stop his illegal means of making ends meet,
stealing and petty thievery. Films such as
A hierro muere starring
Alberto de Mendoza and
Olga Zubarry and
Accidente 703 in 1962 were often co-produced with
Spain and often featured both Argentine and Spanish born actors.
comedy films became to feature in Argentine cinema, and films such as
Alias Flequillo in 1963 directed by
Julio Saraceni starred comedians such as
Las Aventuras del Capitán Piluso en el Castillo del Terror starred comedians such as
Alberto Olmedo who appeared in the genre throughout the 1960s and 1970s appearing in 1967's
El andador and other slap-stick comedies. Argentine film and TV was largely limited to light subjects in the perilous late 1970s.
The trend towards
Ciné Vérité so evident in
France in the early 1970s found an Argentine exponent in stage director
Sergio Renán. His 1974 crime drama
La tregua ("The Truce"), his first foray into film, was nominated for an
Oscar. The same year,
Osvaldo Bayer cooperated with the
Province of Santa Cruz to make
La patagonia rebelde as an homage to a violently quelled 1922 sheephands' strike.
Nostalgia was captured by
Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, whose reworking of Argentine literary classics like
The Hand in the Trap (1961),
Martin Fierro (1968),
The Seven Lunatics (1973) and
Painted Lips (1974) earned him a cult following. Similar in atmosphere, Jose Martinez Suarez's moody Los muchachos de antes no usaban arsenico ("Older Men Don't Need Arsenic", 1975) takes a turn at murder worthy of
Alfred Hitchcock. It was memorable as
Mario Soffici's last role.
Towards the mid-to-late 1960s, directors such as
Armando Bo produced
sex comedies which shocked the audience as they were
soft porn and displayed nudity and sex not seen in the industry before. This preference continued into the 1970s, with
Jorge Porcel's suggestive comedies.
"During the early 1970's, Argentina came apart. Government repression was met by insurrections and terrorism. Solanas and Getino contributed by filming two documentary interviews with the exiled Peron. They also founded a magazine, Cine y liberacion. Getino directed
El Familiar (1972), an allegorical fiction feature on the destine of Latin America. Other film makers continued to make Peronist films, and ultra-left groups such as Cine de Base emerged."
 "In 1976, this period of militant documentary and cinematic innovation was violently ruptured by the murder/disappearance of three documentary filmmakers by the Argentine military: Gleyzer, Pablo Szir and Enrique Juarez."
Heavily censored from 1975 until about 1980, Argentine film-makers generally limited themselves to light-hearted subjects. Among the productions during that era was
Héctor Olivera's adaptation of
Roberto Cossa's play, La nona (
Grandma, 1979). The dark comedy became a reference to the foreign debt interest payments that later saddled the
Argentine economy. One director who, even as a supporter of the military regime, delved into middle-class neuroses with frankness was
Fernando Siro, an inventive film-maker seemingly insensitive to many of his colleagues' tribulations, many of whom were forced to leave during the dictatorship. Though his attitudes distanced him from his peers and public, his 1981 tragedy Venido a menos ("Dilapidated") continues to be influential.
Following a loosening of restrictions in 1980,
muck-raking cinema began to make itself evident on the Argentine screen. Plunging head-long into subjects like corruption and impunity (without directly indicting those in power),
Tiempo de revancha ("Time for Revenge", 1981),
Juan Jose Jusid's
Plata dulce ("Sweet Money," 1982) and
Los enemigos ("The Enemies," 1983) took hard looks at labor rights abuses, corporate corruption and the day's prevailing climate of fear at a time when doing so was often perilous. Petty corruption was also brought up in
El arreglo ("The Deal," 1983).
Post junta cinema
A new era in Argentine cinema started after the arrival of democracy in 1983; besides a few memorable exceptions like
Alejandro Doria's family comedy
Esperando la carroza ("Waiting for the Hearse", 1985), the era saw a marked decline in the popularity of slapstick comedies towards films with more serious undertones and subject matter.
The first group deals frankly with the repression, torture and the disappearances during the
Dirty War in the 1970s and early 1980s. They include:
Funny Little Dirty War (1983) and the true story
Night of the Pencils (1986);
Luis Puenzo's Academy Award-winning
The Official Story (1985); "Pino" Solanas'
Tangos (1985) and
Sur ("South", 1987) and
Alejandro Doria's harrowing Sofia (1987), among others.
Among films dealing with past abuses, one German-Argentine co-production that also deserves mention is
The Girlfriend (1988), where Norwegian leading lady
Liv Ullmann is cast beside locals
Victor Laplace and
A second group of films includes portrayals of exile and homesickness, like
Alberto Fischermann's Los dias de junio ("Days in June," 1985) and
Juan Jose Jusid's Made in Argentina (1986), as well as plots rich in subtext, like Miguel Pereira's
Verónico Cruz (1988), Gustavo Mosquera's Lo que vendrá ("The Near Future", 1988) and a cult favorite,
Martin Donovan's English-language
Apartment Zero (1988). These used metaphor, life's imponderables and hints at wider socio-political issues to reconcile audiences with recent events.
This can also be said of treatments of controversial literature and painful 19th century history like
Maria Luisa Bemberg's
Carlos Sorin's A King and His Movie (1985) and
Man Facing Southeast (1986).
The 1990s brought another New Argentine Cinema wave, marked by classical cinema and a twist from
Independent Argentine Production.
In 1991, Marco Bechis'
Alambrado ("Chicken Wire") was released. That same year, activist film-maker
Fernando "Pino" Solanas released his third major film,
The Journey (1992), a surreal overview of prevailing social conditions in Latin America. Existential angst continued to dominate the Argentine film agenda, however, with
Eliseo Subiela's El lado oscuro del corazon ("Dark Side of the Heart," 1992) and Adolfo Aristarain's
A Place in the World (1992) - notable also for its having been nominated for an Oscar.
Later in the 1990s, the focus began to shift towards Argentina's mounting social problems, such as rising homelessness and crime.
Buenos Aires vice versa (1996) rescued the beauty of feelings in the shadows of poverty in Buenos Aires and
Pizza, Beer, and Cigarettes (film) (1997) looked into the human duality of even the most incorrigible and violent individuals.
Having an intense past and rich cultural heritage to draw on, directors continued to reach back with moody period pieces like
Flop (1990), Maria Luisa Bemberg's
De eso no se habla ("You Don't Discuss Certain Things," 1993, her last and one of Italian leading man's
Marcello Mastroianni's last roles, as well), Santiago Oves' rendition of
Agatha Christie-esque tale
Asesinato a distancia ("Murder from a Distance," 1998), as well as bio-pics like
Gatica, el mono (1993) and Javier Torre's
Lola Mora (1996).
Political history was re-examined with films like
Eduardo Calcagno's controversial take on 1970s-era Argentine film censor Paulino Tato (played by Argentina's most prolific character actor,
Ulises Dumont) in
El censor (1995), Juan J. Jusid's indictment of the old compulsory military training system,
Bajo bandera ("At Half Mast," 1997),
Garage Olimpo (1999), which took viewers into one of the dictatorship's most brutal torture dungeons and
Juan Carlos Desanzo's answer to
Evita, his 1996 Eva Perón (a portrait of a far more complex first lady than the one
Andrew Lloyd Webber had taken up).
Popular culture had its turn on the Argentine screen. Alejandro Doria's Cien veces no debo ("I Don't Owe You Forever," 1990) took an irreverent peek into a typical middle-class Argentine home,
De mi barrio con amor ("From My Neighborhood, with Love," 1996) is a must-see for anyone planning to visit
Buenos Aires' bohemian
El día que Maradona conoció a Gardel ("The Day
Gardel," 1996) is an inventive ode to two standards of Argentine culture.
Films such as
Fabian Bielinsky's twister
Nine Queens (2000), his gothic
El aura (2005) and
Juan José Campanella's teary
Son of the Bride (2001) have received praise and awards around the world.
Juan Carlos Desanzo cast
Miguel Ángel Solá (best known for his role in
Tango) as the immortal
Jorge Luis Borges in
El Amor y el Espanto ("Love and Foreboding", 2001), a look at the writer's struggles with
Perón-era intimidation as well as with his own insecurities.
Always politically active, Argentine film continues to treat hard subjects, like Spanish director
Manane Rodríguez's look at abducted children,
The Lost Steps (2001) and "Pino" Solanas' perhaps definitive film on the
2001 economic crisis, Memorias del saqueo ("Memories of the Riot", 2004).
Tristán Bauer took audiences back to soldiers' dehumanizing
Falklands War experience with
Blessed by Fire (2005) and
Adrián Caetano follows four football players through their 1977 escape from certain death in
Chronicle of an Escape (2006).
Lucrecia Martel's 2001 debut feature film
La Ciénaga ("The Swamp"), about an indulgent
bourgeois extended family spending the summertime in a decrepit vacation home in
Salta, was internationally highly acclaimed upon release and introduced a new and vital voice to Argentine cinema.
 For film scholar David Oubiña, it is "one of the highest achievements" of the New Argentine Cinema, coincidentally timed with Argentina's
economic crisis that it "became a rare expression of an extremely troubled moment in the nation’s recent history. It is a masterpiece of singular maturity".
 Martel's succeeding films would also receive further international acclaim, such as the adolescent drama
The Holy Girl (2004),
 the psychological thriller
The Headless Woman (2008),
 and the
period drama adaptation
Responding to its sentimental public, Argentine film at times returns to subjects of the heart.
David Lipszyc's grainy portrait of depression-era Argentina,
El astillero ("The Shipyard", 2000) was a hit with critics,
Paula Hernandez's touching ode to immigrants,
Inheritance (2001), has become something of a sleeper,
Common Places (2002) follows an elderly professor into retirement,
Cleopatra (2003), Eduardo Mignona's tale of an unlikely friendship, received numerous awards, as did
Carlos Sorín's touching
El perro ("The Dog", 2004). Emotional negativity, a staple for filmmakers anywhere, was explored in
Mario Sabato's India Pravile (2003),
Francisco D'Intino's La esperanza (2005) and
El otro ("The Other", 2007) each deals with mid-life crises in very different ways. The pronounced sentimentality of the average Argentine was also the subject of
Robert Duvall's 2002
Assassination Tango, a deceptively simple crime drama that shows that still waters do, indeed, run deep.
Buffeted by years of economic malaise and encroachment of the domestic film market by foreign (mainly,
U.S.) titles, the Argentine film industry has been supported by the 1987 creation of the National Institute of Cinema and Audioviual Arts (
INCAA), a publicly subsidized film underwriter that, since 1987, has produced 130 full-length
art house titles.
The decade ended on a high with the 2009 film
The Secret in Their Eyes receiving critical praise, winning the
Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the
82nd Academy Awards, three weeks after being awarded the
Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film of 2009.
In 2014, the
Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes in Spanish) directed by
Damián Szifron was nominated for the
Best Foreign Language Film at the
87th Academy Awards and won the
Goya Award for
Best Iberoamerican Film.