Translation Guy Blog
The Best Foreign Language Film Award at the Oscars went to the Argentine film, “El secreto de sus ojos.”
In his acceptance speech, Juan José Campanella said, “It is on behalf of a crew and cast that comprise mostly of people that I love and that are very close to my heart that I want to thank the Academy for not considering Na’vi a foreign language, first of all. And for letting us spend three great days in the company of incredible filmmakers.” (Cute. We’ll just sweep the Academy’s failure to recognize Na’vi as a legit language under the discriminatory rug for now, because I don’t want to distract from Campella’s moment.)
Campella’s Hollywood win came just two weeks after “El secreto de sus ojos” was awarded the Goya for the best Hispano-American film of 2009 (the Goya Awards are the Spanish equivalent of the American Academy Awards). As of 2010, the film has become the second most successful film in Argentina’s history.
The story, set in 1999, flashes back to June 1974, when a federal justice agent, Benjamín Espósito, becomes spellbound by and subsequently entangled in the criminal investigation of the brutal rape and murder of a young woman inside her house in a Buenos Aires neighborhood.
Some predict that the film marks the rebirth of Latino cinema ― but then bloggers always make predictions like that.
Perhaps the Latino gossip site Hissip best reflects the sentiment: “Juan José Campanella of ‘El secreto de sus ojos.’ His victory was his alone, but will this bring a new day for Latin American Film?”
While the “Golden Age” of Latin American cinema was in the mid-1900s, the current popularity of Latin American films, actors, and directors suggests the dawning of a new era in Latin American filmmaking.
But in the end, for me, it comes down to translation of the film title. “El secreto de sus ojos” translates into The Secret of Their Eyes, not The Secret in Their Eyes. In Spanish, the pronoun “sus” is undefined: it could be “his” eyes, “her” eyes, “its” eyes, or “their” eyes, so the interpretation goes many ways, referring alternatively to the pretty young girl’s tragic, beautiful eyes, her killer’s foreboding stare, the protagonist’s searching blue orbs, etc. But we can’t be so imprecise in English. Thus, the more strictly plural translation to look into everyone’s eyes. (Good advice for film ― and real life too…) The lack of Latin flexibility in the English title loses the eye-of-the-beholder subjectivity that makes the movie theme clear in the Spanish title (pick the eyes holding the secret).
Maybe they should have titled it Rashômon? I’ll have to track down the title in Japan…