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Pablo’s Villa

Pablo Novak lives alone in the submerged Argentine ghost town of Villa Epecuén: this is his fascinating and incredible story

2013 | 5 - 10 | Australia | Documentary | Man and Nature

Villa Epecuén is a suggestive town 500 kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Back in the 1920s, a tourist village was established along the shore of the salt lake due to the therapeutic water that visitors came to bathe in. Every season thousands of European vacationers and rich Argentineans, luxurious hotels, restaurants, fashion shops, discos. But a rare weather pattern developed over the city in 1985, causing a seiche in the lake. Over 20 days, Epecuén was gradually submerged in up to 10m of corrosive water. Everybody abandoned the town, except one person: Pablo Novak.

Pablo is a shining 85-year-old man and his story went round the world. Pablo’s Villa by Matthew Salleh & Rose Tucker tells it in just 7 minutes: his family (12 siblings, six women and six men), his first lost love, the new music coming from tourists hotels, his work between fields and building sites, the flood, the hope to rebuild this place and twenty years of extraordinary loneliness. Now, over 23 years later, the wet weather has reversed and the waters have begun to recede. This modern day Atlantis has finally re-emerged, but Pablo doesn’t have a care – everything he does and enjoys, he does it all by himself. No need to talk, he doesn’t depend on his family and has no possessions. Resigned, happy and peaceful, Novak is deeply alive. After all so his father said: they built on salty earth, where there wasn’t any water. Nature has its cycles, and now the cycle repeats.

Far from the street trials filmed by Dave Sowerby for Danny MacAskill, Salleh tells this incredible place (defined by French photographer Romain Veillon as la cité engloutie) through Pablo’s body and voice, delivering wide shots and details, slow takes and photographs (provided by the Museo de Carhué). What remains of Epecuén has become Pablo’s home, and a place for his memories. Ruins, delays and silences trembling like the strings of the emotional guitar played by Steve Salvi.

Pablo’s Villa has been selected for numerous film festivals (including Sydney, Montreal, Slamdance). Matthew Salleh and Rose Tucker are director/producer team behind Urtext Films. They have also created Please Don’t Rush (2013, about a school for blind children in Laos) and Central Texas Barbecue (2014, the age-old process of Barbecue as a path to salvation).

Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Editor-in-Chief @ Good Short Films

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