‘El secreto de sus ojos’ – Whose eyes is it?

by Translation Guy on March 14, 2010

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…


  1. Carl Penny says:

    Rashômon introduced Japanese cinema to Western audiences way out of this films league..

  2. Max Demillo says:

    When we arrived in Buenos Aires about 6 months ago, there was a lot to do about this Argentine movie. El secreto de tus ojos. Big posters everywhere and a lot of publicity. Unfortunately as my family does not speak Spanish, we didn’t go to see it. But now it’s out on DVD with English subtitles, I didn’t hesitate to buy it.

  3. CJ says:

    Yes, a similar plot to Rashômon…almost a rippoff

  4. ForensicCult says:

    The end is really comletely unexpected. That is what I absolutely love about this movie. It is a movie that stays in your head for days and one of the few movies you never forget. Buy it, rent it, whatever, but watch it!

  5. Diego says:

    I suppose I am not the only one who liked the movie : this movie didn’t just win “several prizes”, but they even won an Oscar for “Best foreign language show”. I suppose this means that it will be showing in all the better cinemas around the world. Don’t miss it!

  6. Living it says:

    I saw this movie a few weeks ago and I must say I was totally disappointed! In my opinion, the movie is extremely over rated. It is boring, lame, and Darin and the lady boss make terrible acting. The only one who I think acted like a true professional is Guillermo Francella. Everybody else simply sucked! No offense.

  7. Cali says:

    You have no idea to give an opinion such that, piss me off when people with non common sense just write like that. It is a great movie!

  8. Jo-lynn says:

    Personnaly I thought the acting was really good. I thought the eyes said a lot… (as I was looking for secrets in everyones eyes. :) ) If I have to say something bad about this movie than it is surely the way Morales has aged. His make up is really bad and looks artificial.

  9. Maggie H. says:

    The movie is not boring or lame, but it IS a slow movie. I love slow movies…

    Fortunately not everyone has the same tast :)

  10. Tracy says:

    Here you have the trailer of this wonderful Argentine movie with English subtitles I made myself. Any suggestions are welcome! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ladXgxTnQNA&feature=player_embedded

  11. Lars says:

    Nice trailor – well done young man!

  12. cna training says:

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  13. I saw the movie last night FANTASTIC film. In the mid 90s I was a consultant for the movie chain I believe using the name SHOWTIME or we reccomended “Cine*Mas”. Considered but rejected. But we ie they, were the first to bring teatros con mas de solo 2 cinemas.

    I enjoyed Argentina, although never spent more than several days at a time. We also did same in Santiago and Haedo Chile. Our partner was Dr Juan Carlos Lopez, Arq
    question re las ojos movie ,, I thought on the rape scene that while she was screaming NO! NO! ## “por favor mi amor”. If I waswrong then I misunderstood or missed the Spanish – a sign of my extreme weakness in Espanol. Ajola! Entende mas….

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