‘Pichuco’ Director Martín Turnes Unpackages ‘El Agrónomo,’ a Sustainable Production Plumbing Agro-Industry Pollution

Argentine director Martín Turnes, whose feature “Pichuco” snagged the Argentine Film Critic Association’s Silver Condor Award for best documentary in 2015, is bringing his first full-length fiction title, “El Agrónomo,” to Sanfic Industria’s Works In Progress. 

Filmed in Marcos Paz, Argentina with the support of Marcos Paz Film TV, the project is produced by Fernando Romanazzo of Buenos Aires-based Aqueronte alongside Zebra Films (“Manifesto”) and Haz Cooperativa Audiovisual.

“’El Agrónomo’ won me over with the elements it combines. It intends to establish a critique of this agro-industrial, polluting production system, without falling into empty denunciation. Martín uses an unexpected tool for this: Genre,” producer Fernando Romanazzo told Variety

“It also motivated me. Being a promoter of sustainable and multicultural production within the audiovisual sector, together with my partner Fabiana Bepres, this project offered the possibility of utilizing that type of production method in a medium-sized fiction film, with a noteworthy cast and technical team, demonstrating that it’s possible to produce this way, with coherence between the theme and the making of the film itself, taking care of the environment, our pachamama. Above all, this is the ideology that we implement and preach,” he added.

Gastón’s life is upended when he moves his family to a rural farming community to continue his career as an agronomist working to resurrect failing crops, a decision quickly contested by locals and those he holds dear. Motivations and frustrations reach a fever pitch as the plot dutifully contemplates the high consequence of widespread pesticide use in agriculture while centering fraught family dynamics, portraying the environmental concerns and human risks associated with the practice while touching on the fragile livelihoods of farming communities and the crops that need tending to survive.

“For years I’ve been attentive to the questioning of the predominant agribusiness model, the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the consequences that this entails in our society, in our bodies. I felt the need to transform and all the questions it generated into a film. In this sense, the position of the agronomist seems key to me, because he’s an employee who’s bodily present in the day-to-day agricultural work and also the one who decides what amounts to use in each hectare of the field,” Turnes relayed. “After speaking with several agronomists, I realized that their family lives had a particular dynamic, so it was important that the character be accompanied by his family and live this transformative experience together.”

The plot moves ahead as Gaston’s relationship with his teenage daughter Vera deteriorates. The anguish present as she navigates her independence and refuses to align with his life’s path is tangible as his wife becomes slowly removed from her place beside him in tandem. He’s forced firmly between his profession and their discontent.

“Raising a child is a constant learning process, at times frustrating. Adolescence is a peak moment, in which children rebel against both their parents and against the system,” Turnes stated. 

“Together with my co-scriptwriter Marcelo Pitrola, we took advantage of that adolescent energy embodied in Gastón’s daughter who, forced to move to a town and change her entire life, understanding more broadly what her father does and the consequences, is drawn to a new group of friends and decides not to remain silent,” he continued.

In addition to simmering homestead tensions, Vera joins the town’s freestyle club, which staunchly opposes his work. A way to openly express her budding frustrations, the diversion is foreign to the adults in town, which serves to enhance the generational divide and develop the daughter’s character arc beyond ‘angst-riddled teen.’ She stands for something, as naive as she may be, and has like-minded friends encouraging her to expand on her budding convictions.

“In my previous film ‘Pichuco,’ music was the central axis. In ‘El Agrónomo’ I wanted there to be a musical line. Freestyle, being an urban genre with the modality of battles and the possibility of providing protest content in the lyrics, was the appropriate genre,” Turnes relayed. “In contrast to the subtlety that we sought throughout the entire script, with the musical scenes we were able to express key themes that allowed us to reinforce the confrontation that we were looking for between Gastón and the freestyle group.”

The film’s thematic heft plays out sharply until the end, highlighted by performances from a knockout cast that includes Diego Velázquez (“El Maestro”), Valeria Lois (“The Siamese Bond”), emergent actress Ángeles Zapata, Claudio Martínez Bel (“Rojo”) and Susana Pampín (“Incident Light”). Additionally, the project has been selected for upcoming Works In Progress programs at SAP CINE FicCali in Cali, Colombia, Las Alturas International Film Festival in Jujuy, Argentina and the Bolivia LAB in Santa Cruz.

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