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East End Film Festival returns with Argentine focus

The Last Elvis film

The East End Film Festival is focusing on Argentine films.

The East End Film Festival is back with an eclectic selection of films from around the world – and a special focus on Argentina.

The EEFF began yesterday, 25 June, and continues until 10 July, with more than 70 film screenings around the east end, at venues including the Rio Cinema, Genesis, the Barbican, Stratford Picturehouse, and Rich Mix.

This year’s special focus is on Argentine cinema, with six films and a session of short films on display:

“Following Armando Bo’s dark comic drama The Last Elvis [above] taking the EEFF’s top award in 2012, Bo returns to the festival as the EEFF’s Director in Residence as the festival presents a phenomenal selection of films from new Argentine directors, including the extraordinary, mystical debut from Pablo Trapero’s screenwriting partner Alejandro Fidel, The Wild Ones; Jazmin Lopez’s Leones, Mariano Llinás’s mind-bending meta-thriiler Extraordinary Stories; a selection of Argentina’s most vital short films; and a special rescreening of El Ultimo Elvis.”

The festival will also be holding a series of talks and film-making workshops. For more information, see the East End Film Festival website.

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Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires: City of the Dead

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Image: Katy Salter

It costs a lot of money to have a good death in Buenos Aires.

If you’re lucky enough, and rich enough, or hail from one of the city’s great families, you might just nab yourself a spot in Recoleta Cemetery, one of the world’s great necropoli/necropoleis/necropoles.

Mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires. Image: Katy Salter

Occupying a huge city block in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Recoleta, opposite a very swish, first-world shopping centre, the cemetery is home to the great and good of Buenos Aires’s past.

The streets of Recoleta Cemetery

The streets of Recoleta Cemetery. Image: Jon Yeomans

I’m something of a fan of cities-within-cities, and Recoleta Cemetery fits this model. Rigid streets of mausoleums line up grid-fashion, echoing the ordered roads of the living city beyond the walls. At the end of each road you can see the balconies of the barrio’s smart apartment buildings rising above you.

Ancient tomb, Recoleta Cemetery

Ancient tomb, Recoleta Cemetery. Image: Jon Yeomans

Tombs of all shapes and sizes can be found here: from crumbling classical structures that could be thousands of years old to pyramids, baroque statues and even life-size replicas of the dearly departed in their bathrobes.

Statue in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Eternity in your bathrobe? Don’t mind if I do. Image: Jon Yeomans

The cemetery is a definite landmark in a city that is curiously short on them; Buenos Aires strikes me as a city of neighbourhoods rather than sights per se. The cemetery, however, is a firm stop on the tourist trail. Tour groups are bussed to the gates and then led along a well-trod path by guides with umbrellas and yellow flags.

Pyramid tomb on Recoleta Cemetery

“Here lies ash, dust, nada.” Image: Jon Yeomans

The beaten track in Recoleta Cemetery leads, inevitably, to its most famous resident: Evita. María Eva Duarte de Perón, former first lady of Argentina, rests in a black marble tomb adorned with flowers, flags and stickers. This well-snapped doorway doesn’t tell you much about this rather enigmatic woman, whose burial in the cemetery was resisted for many years by the more snobbish sections of Porteño society.

Evita's tomb in Recoleta

Evita’s tomb in Recoleta. Image: Katy Salter

The cemetery’s history stretches back a considerable way. It opened in 1822, on the grounds of a former monastery. The space takes up 5.5 hectares (14 acres) and contains 4,691 vaults. Presidents, doctors, lawyers, generals, writers, artists, politicians and even the odd journo are buried here, rubbing shoulders for all eternity.

Plaque in Recoleta Cemetery

The great and the good are buried in Recoleta Cemetery. Image: Jon Yeomans

You can shake off the tour groups easily enough, and there are corners of the cemetery rarely visited, such is its scale. The elegance and expense of all these mausoleums is arresting; it says a lot about rich Porteños down the years and how they saw themselves.

Recoleta Cemetery

The main boulevard of Recoleta Cemetery. Image: Jon Yeomans

The cemetery may not tell you much about philosophy or relgion or the afterlife, but it does tell you a lot about fashion: about how it has always been the done thing to be buried in Recoleta, for its cachet, and how it doesn’t pay to be seen (literally) dead anywhere else. When and why did this ultimately pointless fashion start? How many people nearly bankrupted themselves or spent the kids’ inheritance to get here?

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires. Image: Jon Yeomans

It’s a weird, soothing place, and the sun is very hot when it bounces off the marble tombs and flagstoned streets. Recoleta Cemetery reminded me of Pompeii or Ephesus, a throwback to ancient times, in a thoroughly modern city.

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London’s first Argentine Film Festival hits The Ritzy on 20 April

London Argentine Film Festival 2012

London Argentine Film Festival 2012 will be showing Caprichosos de San Telmo. Image: LAFF

Film lovers — another date for your diary.

London’s first Argentine Film Festival runs at The Ritzy cinema in Brixton from 20-22 April. There will be eight award-winning films on display, plus four shorts from Argentina’s little-known (well, little-known over here, certainly) silent era.

The highlight film is likely to be Chinese Take Away (Un cuento chino) starring Ricardo Darin (The Secret In Their Eyes).

“All of the films have received international recognition and awards, but they also tell universal stories that any Londoner can relate to, be they English or Spanish-speakers,” says Sofia Serbin de Skalon, the Festival’s director and founder.

Perhaps capitalising on the success of The Artist, the four shorts in the programme date from the 1920s and offer “a captivating snapshot of Argentine life at the beginning of the 20th century”.

“We are truly delighted to host London’s first Argentine Film Festival,” says Clare Binns of Picturehouse Cinemas. “Argentina is producing some fantastic films, and the Ritzy, with its long-standing history of alternative programming and its community spirit, is the perfect venue for this festival.”

I’ll definitely try and get along to some of these – but what a shame it coincides exactly with the London Spanish Film Festival Spring Weekend in South Ken. London’s big enough to host all these different festivals – but a little co-ordination wouldn’t go amiss!

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HPA Gaucho International Polo Event: March 21 at The O2

HPA Gaucho Polo International 2012

HPA Gaucho Polo International 2012 takes place on 21 March at The O2.

After last year’s inaugural swanky Gaucho International Polo match, the event returns in March this year.

Tickets for the event at The O2 on 21 March went on sale on Saturday. Matches on the programme include Ireland v Scotland and England v Argentina (which hopefully won’t be too much of a grudge match, given David Cameron’s recent chest-beating over the Falklands).

I don’t know much about polo, but I’m looking forward to finding out more on a forthcoming trip to Argentina. This event undoubtedly looks a bit bling, but then it takes all sorts to make the world go round, and tickets start from a relatively palatable £22.50.

The HPA Gaucho Internation Polo Event is sponsored by the Gaucho chain of Argentinian steak houses, which seem to be springing up like wildfire around London, with their distinctive cow hide hangings, black marble look and top-end beef (‘wet-aged’ for taste and convenience: more here).

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A La Cruz restaurant celebrates England v Argentina

A La Cruz restaurant

A La Cruz restaurant is offering a special breakfast as it screens England v Argentina in the Rugby World Cup. Image: Paul Winch-Furness

A La Cruz Argentinian restaurant is serving up a sizzling meat breakfast on 10 September to celebrate England v Argentina in the Rugby World Cup.

The asador will be serving English breakfast from 8.30am as it shows the match live on TV from New Zealand. You can also book a brunch of Argentine charcoal-grilled 8oz steak for £12 from 11.00am.

A La Cruz, which opened in 2009, specialises in slow-roasted meats cooked on its charcoal grill, with all meat sourced from farms in Argentina. The restaurant is a spin-off project by Argentine-born John Rattagan, head chef at Buen Ayre in Hackney.

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Buen Ayre brings a slab of Argentina to Hackney

Buen Ayre restaurant

Buen Ayre brings a slice of Argentina to Hackney. Image credit: Buen Ayre

If you happen to pass through Hackney, and you like a good bit of cow meat, you should really check out Buen Ayre.

Buen Ayre is located in the beating hipster heart of Hackney on the rather picturesque strip of Broadway Market.

It is, as its website proclaims, the only Latin American restaurant in Time Out’s Top 50 for 2011, and its focus, needless to say, is steak. Lots and lots of excellent Argentine steak: sirloin, rump, rib-eye, and the Argentine speciality, churrasco.

Buen Ayre grill

Meat on the Buen Ayre grill. Image credit: Buen Ayre

The plain space with stout wooden tables is dominated by the parrilla, or charcoal grill, in the middle of the room.

I had the excellent rib-eye on my visit, but the star attraction on the bill is almost certainly the parrillada deluxe for two people, which includes sirloin, rib-eye, pork sausages, black pudding and provolone cheese.

Buen Ayre’s fame has spread far and wide — the likes of Keira Knightley, David Schwimmer and Carlos Tevez (who should, let’s face it, know a good parrillada when he sees it) have all dropped by.

The restaurant was set up by Bueno Aires-born chef John Patrick Rattagan (of Irish descent; hence the name) in 2004. Prices for a decent steak meal range around the £20-25 mark and there are two sittings — at 7.15pm and 9.15pm. As you might expect, Buen Ayre is hellishly popular, so book well ahead: 020 7275 9900.

Buen Ayre has just started opening on Fridays from 12 to 3pm.

As an extra bonus, the restaurant has a rotating art policy on its walls. The latest artist to be featured is photographer Maura Framrose, with photos of her travels through South America.

If all this takes your fancy, you could do worse than pop along. And if you really like it, you could invest in a rather fine Buen Ayre T-shirt. The hispters’ll hate it.

Vida London now has a Facebook page — why not give it a ‘like’?

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La Linea Latin music festival hits London

La Linea Music Festival

La Linea Music Festival begins in London in 6 April with Yasmin Levy.

La Linea Latin music festival 2011 starts in London on Wednesday 6th April, with acts from Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Chile on the bill.

Venues such as the Barbican, Cargo, Koko (always the Camden Palace to me) and the Royal Albert Hall have lined up to take part in the festival.

One of the highlights is Ojos de Brujo, playing a 10th anniversary show and possibly their last for a couple of years.

Other acts include Israeli-born Yasmin Levy, who fuses flamenco with Ladino – Judeo-Spanish music.

The festival wraps up with a performance by the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, featuring alumni of the famous Cuban players.

La Linea festival line-up:

Wednesday 6th April – Yasmin Levy + Melingo, Barbican Hall

Friday 8th April – Muchachito with Santos de Veracruz, Cargo

Friday 15th April – Ojos de Brujo Special 10th Anniversary Show + Depedro, Barbican Hall

Sunday 17th April – A Night of Twisted Cumbia featuring Mexican Institute of Sound, Axel Krygier, Pollito Boogaloo + special guests to be announced, Koko

Tuesday 19th April – Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® Featuring Omara Portuondo + Papayera, Royal Albert Hall

Tickets are available via Como No! More details are available on Gerry Lyseight’s blog.