CANNES 2019: SONG WITHOUT A NAME BY MELINA LEÓN

This entry was posted on May 16th, 2019

By Mónica Delgado

Beyond the well-known phrase “based in real events” that appears at the beginning, Melina León’s Canción sin nombre (Song without a name) is a film which creates nebulous and saddened atmospheres of a Lima amidst political chaos in the eighties. Made in 4:3, this almost squared vision, is used to good purpose from the introduction, a sort of presentation that gives the sensation that being inside a T.V. screen, with textures that imitate 8mm film that show newspapers’ headlines with news of that decade, or with scenes, like the former president Alan García Perez (now deceased by suicide), one of the responsible of the hiper inflation in the country, and the moral and social drama the characters live.

Shot in a beautiful black and white by Inti Briones, Canción sin nombre searches under this influx of foggy days, to recover the spirit of orphanhood and decadence of this time of curfews and car bombs. And going beyond the journalistic investigation it is inspired in, of stolen newborns from poor mothers, it becomes a look about the perspective of two characters which suffer the consequences of solitude in anomy, fruit of the political chaos, the economic inflation and the barbarism of Shining Path (the terrorist group). Two stories, one of a woman (Pamela Mendoza) with a newborn baby who is kidnapped, and the other of a journalist (Tommy Párraga) that cross paths in a drama that doesn’t have the intention of being a police investigation, but to transmit these sensations of impossibility in a hostile environment. And maybe that’s the biggest achievement of the film, which focus more in this way of presenting its scenarios of a morbid, old and forgotten Lima, or an Iquitos abstracted from its usual anatomy, to be shown as a space of accumulation and extreme poverty (and maybe in that sense it offers a quota of exoticization of poverty, which reminds us of some melodramas by Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza)

This is, more than any other thing, a film of atmospheres, posed by this black and white of fog and dryness, despite the constant sound of the sea near the desert. The subplots which appear in the film, the one with Georgina’s husband (a dispensable scene of the terrorist attack, for example) and the one of the Cuban friend of the journalist, seem to divert from the link between the mother looking for justice and the journalist that investigates, and maybe because of that one is left with the sensation that some of the motives of the characters don’t end up being well closed.

On the other hand, it isn’t casual that the film is denominated as a “song” (canción) since the musical atmospheres composed by Pauchi Sasaki, who also was live playing in the pre-show in Cannes, gives the film a climate of requiem, mixed also with local dances like the “scissors dance” and huaynos which appear in some scenes. And here lies another aspect of value which mixes well with the cinematography, feats that add to this debut, which looks promising for Melina Leon’s career. The fact that the film was selected and presented in the Quinzaine, is something to celebrate, even more in a context where the local right party (Fuerza Popular) questions the funding from the public treasure for Peruvian cinema.

There’s a moral aspect in the film that creates some noise, which comes from the dialog of the journalist with a senator, who says he won’t be able to do much for the case of a denounce of a trafficking network of newborns, since the babies would be better taken care of by the buyers than the poor biological mothers. “What lies ahead for those children if they return to Peru, if they come back to those mothers with nothing to offer?”, and maybe that’s why the resolution of the film is just Georgina, singing in Quechua her desolation, missing her daughter, unable to do anything.

Quinzaine des Réalisateurs
Director: Melina León
Cast: Pamela Mendoza, Tommy Párraga, Lucio Rojas, Maykol Hernández, Lidia Quispe
Script: Melina Leon, Michael J. White
Cinematography: Inti Briones
Editors: Melina León, Manuel Bauer, Antolín Prieto
Music: Pauchi Sasaki
Sound Design: Pablo Rivas
Producers: Inti Briones, Melina Leon, Michael J. White
Perú, Spain, USA., Chile, 97 mins