‘Theft of the century’: A heist of 19 million dollars for the love of art that marked Argentina | Culture

A robbery is no excuse to postpone a birthday celebration. At least, that’s what one of the assailants who entered the Banco Río de Acassuso (Argentina) in 2006 thought, who gave an old woman a sweet, suggested that she blow it, sang the corresponding melody and asked for the collaboration of the rest of the hostages. The situation, although it seems implausible, really happened and is reproduced in The theft of the century, film that hits the Spanish billboard this Friday after becoming a blockbuster in Argentina, where it premiered in January 2020: almost 100,000 people attended on the first day alone. They went to the movies to see a story that was already familiar to them, because in 2006 six thieves entered a branch, opened 147 boxes and took about 19 million dollars (about 16 million euros).

The case earned a spot on television for anecdotes such as that of the birthday girl, for the amount of money it involved and for poetic touches. Among them, the fact that the weapons were replicas; that the ideologue of the plan, Fernando Araujo, was an artist, or the poster they left, which read: “In a rich neighborhood, without weapons or grudges, it’s only money and not love.” The director, Ariel Winograd (Buenos Aires, 43 years old), defines it as “epic”: “It is a story that marked our culture. It was difficult to reproduce it due to the number of people who were involved ”. It refers to the 23 people detained, the more than 300 policemen with shields and rifles who were deployed in the area, the four snipers who were guarding the scene and the more than 20 cameras that broadcast the events.

To make The theft of the century The participation of Araujo, who is already out of prison, played in the film by Diego Peretti, was fundamental. Also the other version, that of the negotiator, Miguel Sileo, played by Luis Luque. They both took turns attending the filming. They mainly had these two sources and the words of some members of the band that appear in small cameos. These testimonies were only a one-off help, as the film’s production company, MarVista Entertainment, had already purchased the rights to Without weapons or grudges, by Rodolfo Palacios, where all the details were. “The whole story is in the book,” says producer and co-writer Alex Zito (Baltimore, 46).

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Argentina came from the corralito, the serious crisis of 2001. “People were not allowed to get their money and the entire population was very resentful and frustrated. The bank was the public enemy number one of the town and when this robbery happened it was as if Robin Hood had acted. It was a vindication ”, explains Zito. With these premises, the only licenses that were taken were to make the event even more cinematic. For example, how another member of the band, Luis Mario Vitette, faces Araujo’s proposal, a character totally opposed to him and whom the Pope has blocked on Twitter, played in the film by Guillermo Francella. “It is true that Vitette was an old sea dog with a very broad criminal career, but we took the character to extremes so that there would be a conflict,” adds Zito.

The way the band works is reminiscent of the famous Spanish series The Money Heist. That Netflix production angered Araujo. “He said that he was going to bring them to trial for stealing their experiences,” says Winograd from the Argentine capital, in a joint video call with Zito, who is in Miami. They both share their third job together, after My first wedding (2011) and Came to steal (2013).

With the complaint about the series, Araujo hints that he was trying to go beyond a robbery. He wanted to do something that transcended, but he preferred to do it indirectly, without putting himself ahead. All these years, in fact, he has avoided being on television. According to Zito’s summary, Araujo combined “poetic or romantic elements, such as leaving a poster for the Halcón group, from the special police force,” with other more banal ones: asking them for some pizzas that got cold while they escaped. “They didn’t have so many resources, the materials they used were recycled, but there was intelligence work that took them a year. There was a lot of patience. And that which defines us as Argentines: doing eight more laps to get there ”, he comments.

The actors Diego Peretti (left) and Guillermo Francella (center) together with the director of 'The Theft of the Century', Ariel Winograd.
The actors Diego Peretti (left) and Guillermo Francella (center) with the director of ‘Theft of the century’, Ariel Winograd.

“The most absurd thing is that everything that seems added by the script really happened. It was absolutely implausible and incredible, and that made it historic, ”says the director, and recalls that there is a judicial file where all these details are collected. Such was the magnitude that, when the hostage-taking was over, the agents went to lunch and agreed that they would surely somehow find out who the culprits were. “Nobody makes a robbery like that and takes it to the grave. It’s too spectacular, ”says the co-writer.

Winograd believes that, beyond robbing banks, the robbers wanted to produce a work of art: “That is why there is so much data that is easily transferred to the big screen.” Mention the first image, in which the actor works on a three-dimensional work, whose creator is precisely Araujo. “Time passes and I think we were part of his idea. In other words, we were part of his plan, which had different stages, and I think the last one was to tell it in a movie ”, he says about this closing of the cycle.

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