Zama (2017): Lucrecia Martel’s Period Drama about Colonialism and Class Struggle (WIF)

Lucrecia Martel, the brilliant Argentinean director, takes her time to make movies, and it’s almost tempting to say that it’s worth waiting.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

Based on the 1956 novel of the same title by Antonio di Benedetto, Zama is set in the late 18th century in a remote South American colony.

The titular character, Don Diego de Zama, is an ambitious Corregidor, longing for a better assignment from the Spanish Empire.

The film, which world premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Fest and then played at Toronto Fest, served as Argentine’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Offering scathing observations about colonialism and class dynamics, Zama is based on a fragmentary, non-linear narrative structure (which befits the socio-political chaos), while using a rather intense and complex system of visuals and sounds.

Martel is a highly acclaimed Argentinean director on the festival circuit, but has not found yet an appreciative audience in the U.S. and other countries outside the small art film milieu.


The film’s post-production and release were delayed due to Martel’s battle with cancer.

She served as president of the main jury of the 2019 Venice Film Fest, which, surprisingly, under her guidance bestowed the top prize on the mainstream Hollywood movie, Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.


WIF (Women in Film)