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  • Starring: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas, Matheus Nachtergaele
  • Director: Lucrecia Martel
  • Language: Spanish
  • Genre(s): Drama
  • Rating: NR
  • Running Time: 115 min.

This film is part of our In Translation series of recent foreign language films of note.

Zama, an officer of the Spanish Crown born in South America, waits for a letter from the King granting him a transfer from the town in which he is stagnating, to a better place. His situation is delicate. He must ensure that nothing overshadows his transfer. He is forced to accept submissively every task entrusted to him by successive Governors who come and go as he stays behind. The years go by and the letter from the King never arrives. When Zama notices everything is lost, he joins a party of soldiers that go after a dangerous bandit. [Strand Releasing]

"This is one of the most atmospheric and transporting films I've seen all year, and also one of the best."
- Justin Chang, NPR
"An elegantly lensed and slowly percolating satire of 18th-century colonial misadventures, adapted from a 1956 novel by Antonio Di Benedetto."
- Peter Howell, Toronto Star
"The film is perfectly orchestrated to give off a languid, restless energy that matches the protagonist's own maddening inertia."
- Tina Hassannia, Globe and Mail
"A mordantly funny and relentlessly modernist critique of colonialism."
- Glenn Kenny,
"Zama is a patient, delicately strange film chronicling an increasingly impatient man and a destiny beyond his control."
- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"Even as Martel steeps the film deep within Zama's perspective, she observes his tortuous male pathos with the critical distance of a female gaze."
- Devika Girish, Village Voice
"The first thing to be said of Lucrecia Martel’s Spanish-language film is that it stands as a startling original. Though the story is elusive, the images speak for themselves, and they are stunning. (The cinematographer was Rui Poças ; what does he know about light and color that others don’t?) "
- Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
"Ms. Martel is exploring the past, how we got here and why, but she is more interested in relations of power than in individual psychological portraits. The monstrous must be humanized to be understood, which doesn’t mean it deserves our tears. "
- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
"How strange and apt that the year’s most sensorially and ideologically dense film is also a comedy of microaggressions, built on the minor workplace humiliations of a pencil-pusher in the 1790s. "
- Christopher Gray, Slant Magazine
"There’s absolutely nothing else like it in theaters this year, which I mean as both a hearty endorsement and a necessary forewarning. "
- David Sims, The Atlantic
"Martel engages directly with Argentina’s colonial legacy, although her approach remains allusive and layered. She transforms Benedetto’s epic into a dizzying, sensory head trip about a man’s gradual psychological decay, allowing larger historical and political themes to emerge organically from her meticulous formal compositions. "
- Devika Girish, Village Voice
"Bewitching and masterfully rendered, Zama is an elegant, ravishing, often delightfully strange achievement. "
- Dom Sinacola, Paste Magazine