This article is adapted from AQ’s print issue on transparency and the 2018 elections
Following the success of their highly acclaimed debut 7 Cajas (7 Boxes), Paraguayan directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori return with an unvarnished look at one of their country’s most baffling — and revealing — national obsessions.
Los Buscadores (The Gold Seekers) follows two young Paraguayans as they try to strike it rich in pursuit of the local legend of plata yvyguy (buried treasure). Their search begins when paperboy Manu (Tomás Arredondo) receives a map from his sick, mute grandfather indicating the location of gold and emeralds buried during the 19-century War of the Triple Alliance, which had a catastrophic effect on Paraguay’s population and economy. Twists, betrayals and wisecracks ensue as Manu and friends try to recover the treasure from the bowels of an African embassy. The characters banter in Yopará (a melodic mix of Spanish and Guaraní), and Asunción’s class divides come to the fore as the treasure hunters make their way through the city.
One of Los Buscadores’ greatest strengths is its portrayal of Paraguay’s capital. The action flits between the decaying colonial mansions of the microcentro and the flood-washed neighborhood of Chacarita, where rising waters add urgency to the searchers’ attempted escape from poverty. The directors say they make films for their local audience — and certain scenes feel like Paraguayan in jokes — but they also have a keen eye for what makes Asunción unique.
It is a shame, then, that the legend of plata yvyguy is not explored in greater depth. The existence of 19th-century buried treasure is widely believed in Paraguay, with particularly audacious or fateful scavenges regularly featured in the local press; here it merits only a brief montage. Nevertheless, Los Buscadores is now the second-highest grossing film in Paraguayan movie history (behind 7 Cajas), and a worthy follow-up to Maneglia and Schémbori’s groundbreaking debut.
AQ Rating: 7/10
Directed by: Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori
Written by: Juan Carlos Maneglia and Mario González Martí
Starring: Tomás Arredondo, Cecilia Torres and Christian Ferreira
Youkee is a freelance journalist based in Bogotá