Review: ‘White Walls Say Nothing’

Hot Docs 2017

2 mins read

White Walls Say Nothing
(Argentina/USA, 70 min.)
Dir. Jonny Robson, Gates Bradley
Programme: Artscapes (World Premiere)


White Walls Say Nothing profiles the Argentine artists who took graffiti to a new level by painting the drab grey buildings of Buenos Aires with vibrant colours and uplifting murals. The doc gains access to an impressive number of those street artists. Some work in broad daylight and speak openly to the camera while others paint by nightfall and insist on having their faces obscured from view. The hesitancy that some of the artists have towards exposing their identities doesn’t necessarily come from the illegality of their street art. Rather, this trepidation is a product of the complex socio-political backdrop from which street art emerged.

Directors Jonny Robson and Gates Bradley offer a thorough excavation of Argentina’s economic collapse two decades ago and let the artists describe the volatile political climate that ensued. Stories of violence, corruption, riots, and missing friends and family members illustrate a population that was in need of voices. The artists talk about how they harnessed the rebellious power of spray paint cans to defy the regime. Interviews discuss how the “grime” of graffiti—obscenities and political slogans scrawled on the walls of Buenos Aires—inspired colourful murals and tags that reclaimed the life of a city and defied the government.

The talking heads approach of White Walls Say Nothing runs dry at times, but the art on display is consistently appealing. Robson and Bradley use dynamic cinematography that lets the eyes of moviegoers take in the art of the walls through the energy of the streets. White Walls Say Nothing illustrates how art doesn’t need to convey an overt message in order to be political. Sometimes the mere feat of transforming one’s environment is a radical act.

White Walls Say Nothing screens:
-Friday, May 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9:00 PM


Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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