Monthly Archives: January 2014

Never too late to make amends…

It’s been a while. This challenge didn’t go as planned but hey, so does life. I miscalculated the time film school really took if I were to do it right and still have a relationship at home but It paid off. It’s not that I didn’t watch that many films but to do that and write about it when in the middle of making movies and working on friend’s movies can get a little hectic.

I can now call myself a USC film school graduate and transition to the professional life which, no doubt, will sweep me out of the challenge I’m about to propose. You know what? Scrap that. I’m not really good with these kind of things so I will not add too much pressure at first. I will not make it official at least. 

Anyway, my goal is to write about movies weekly. I will start with one movie. There will be a difference though. But before I get into that, let me just tell you where this is coming from. Hell, let me start with where I came from… I think you may know I’m Brazilian. For the geographically challenged Brazil is in South America and we speak Portuguese (NOT SPANISH, for the love of God). I want to make films that are engaging and that are (for the most part) set in Brazil. This is because I feel there is a gap in representation from that part of the world, and when there is, it’s the wrong kind. 

Let me tell you what I mean. If I ask people what Brazilian movies they’ve seen, City of God is the first one that comes to mind. Then, if they are more savvy than most, they will say Elite Squad. The pattern here is films about violence, corruption and poverty set in Rio’s favelas. I’m kind of tired of this stereotype (exhausted really) and I believe we need to change it. This is not something new. Glauber Rocha named this phenomenon “The Aesthetics of Hunger.” By that he basically meant that people are hungry for this type of film that depicts a primitive state of a society. A place where there are no laws but to merely survive. Everything is game as long as you know how to play it. The land of no one where the fittest is synonymous of the most crooked. The location is exotic. Somewhere far away from the “civilized world” where savagery reigns. Basically the “white man” is hungry to return to the primitive. They can’t really do it in real life (aside from the trips they will take to these exotic places) and frankly, they really don’t want to.

Look, I’m not saying that City of God is not a cinematic masterpiece which I really believe it is. But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t exploitative either. Elite Squad is even more since it took the fame of this genre and rolled with it becoming increasingly more commercial with the sequel by even hiring Hollywood professionals to punch-in some “international” production value. The result was astounding and we all know it became the highest-grossing domestic Brazilian film ever. It was great that it brought a lot of attention to the domestic film market but the not-so-good news is that it kept pushing this exploitative favela-crime genre. In short, this is what I want to work against.

But going back to the plan, I will watch a Latin American film every week and comment about it. Yes, I will still watch the favela movies if they come because the point is to develop my own understanding and Latin American sensibility for films so I know what is lacking and what is plentiful. This is basically a research project for myself and I will just log the results here publicly and if someone happens to read it great, if not…no big deal. 

I will leave the previous posts there for posterity’s sake but if one day I feel like it, I will get rid of ’em (it’s my blog afterall :P).

Ok. That is all for now. Wish me luck. Better luck this time please.

MD.

film #2 | Una Noche

Havana, Cuba

| 2012, Cuba, UK, US, dir. Lucy Mulloy |

Wow. What a film this is. I wasn’t expecting the impact this film would have until I was swept into the story, as it developed. This is obviously not a perfect film. It has some problems and wouldn’t make everyone’s nothing-to-do afternoon watch. But it has character and it is very engaging.

We start out with a voice over intro from Lila (Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre), the younger sister of Elio (Javier Núñez Florián) who is best friends with Raul (Dariel Arrechaga). Lila is a tan teenager who is bullied by the “pretty” girls for her style since she a loner who finds closer friendships in guys. Her brother Elio, works in a kitchen where Raul is an apprentice and finds out about Raul’s dream of going to Miami to search for his father. The story revolves around these three characters who become increasingly connected to Raul’s dream of heading north. One of the problems is, even though the story is told through Lila’s voiceover, it had a tendency of sticking with Raul which may confuse who the story is supposed to follow but this is not really a problem to me. It could be seen as an ensemble told through Lila’s eyes. But I guess Lila still has perhaps the most emotional connection. You decide. These storytelling tools are just there as a guide but as filmmakers we don’t have to follow them as long as the story is engaging.

I hate to point negatives of artists’ works since I know how hard it is to make something, especially how difficult it is to stick to your original vision. The work takes a life of its own and it develops with the team that is creating it. So I say this with caution as merely suggestions. At some parts the use of non-actors becomes self-reflexive and we can tell they are acting but when they do forget about the camera, magic happens. Another thing is the story is saturated with sexual encounters and I get the people’s need to “release” themselves from this often oppressive way of living but I didn’t need it more than 2-3 times. Perhaps this is part of the research the director so throughly made by living in the island, and is something that is prevalent there, but I still can get the point sooner.

With that being said, the film is almost a visual research piece on the cultural development of these people. Aside from the obvious appeal that a film set in Cuba provides, the world of the film is well displayed as is its complex characters and their dilemmas. There is a lot of rich details and you should keep learning more details on re-watches. I love the moments of pure humanism when these characters react to each other in a organic way. The little things said are wonderful. It is pure-cinema. This is what makes this movie special. I can tell Lucy Mulloy is still learning the tools but already knows the core of what makes us human. It is amazing that this is her first feature and it is impressive that it was premiered at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival.

I will definitely be on the lookout for what she has in store next.

Oh, and did I mention it is extremely cinematic? Just look at the screenshot above.

I tried to be as specific as possible without spoilers and this is the most I can get right now but:

watch this film to the end! It is literally very important. And let me know what you think!

MD

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,