An Argentinian/Spanish collaboration, The Distinguished Citizen tells the fictional story of Barcelona-based author Daniel Mantovani, played by Oscar Martínez, who won a Best Actor award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival for the role. World-weary Mantovani has lost his writing mojo. He is despondent even upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature; in his self-deprecating acceptance speech he insists that the only reason he has won the award is because the judges wanted to make a 'safe' choice. 'Safe' clearly is not a label that sits comfortably with him.
World weary author Daniel Mantovani returns to his home town in Argentina after 40 years to find he is not universally lauded
Roll on five years, and Mantovani is sitting with his personal assistant as they go through a long list of invitations to an array of prestigious events. Looking bored and disengaged, Mantovani has a one-word response to each invitation - 'no'. However, one invitation sees him pause for thought - an invitation to return to his hometown of Salas, just a short hop away from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to accept the town's 'distinguished citizen' award. He decides to return to Salas to accept the award, after an absence of some 40 years.
Mantovani declines his personal assistant's suggestion that she should accompany him, hoping to keep his return as low key as possible. The townsfolk of Salas have other ideas. After some difficulty in reaching the town - thanks to his transfer driver's insistence on taking a 'shortcut', coupled with the vehicle experiencing mechanical difficulties - Mantovani quickly finds himself being whisked from engagement to engagement: a parade through the streets on a fire engine, unveiling of a sculpture in his honour, judge of an art show, and so it goes on.
What starts out as a local hero being lauded by the townspeople quickly gains sinister overtones, as not everyone is delighted to see Mantovani back in town. While his former girlfriend is happy to see him back, her husband is not. Nor are various other citizens who have recognised themselves as characters in his books.
The Distinguished Citizen plays at cinemas nationwide from 18th April
The film rolls on towards an inevitable showdown, which has you wondering if Mantovani will survive his visit to Salas. But did these events actually happen, or is it merely the plot of Mantovani's next novel? You will have to make up your own mind.
Described as a comedy/drama, The Distinguished Citizen had me gently chuckling much of the way through. It's a clever, insightful and witty film, and the interactions between Mantovani and the townsfolk have been skilfully handled. The gentle build to the film's climax had me fully engaged. At times bordering on farcical, The Distinguished Citizen is entertaining, and I recommend you put it on your viewing list for the Festival.
The film is a worthy winner of several awards, including the Vittorio Veneto Award in the 2016 Venice Film Festival, Best Foreign Film in the Spanish Language (Ibero-American Feature) in the 2017 Goya Awards, and Best Screenplay at the Havana Film Festival.
Follow this link to see the official trailer for the movie:
The Distinguished Citizen plays in all state capitals. It is recommended for audiences aged 18 plus. Click here to find a session near you and to buy tickets. The running time is 117 minutes.