By Monica Delgado
The 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival barely included a Latin American film in its official competition. It was the Costa Rican film Domingo y la niebla, by Ariel Escalante Meza, his first film and also the first film from that country to be part of a selection of this type. This time it was part of Un certain regard, usual space for first and second works. And three other works, the Colombians Un varón by Fabián Hernández, in Directors’ Fortnight, and La Jauría by Andrés Ramírez Pulido, in Critics’ Week, where he won the main prize, as well as the Chilean 1976 by Manuela Martelli (which I couldn’t see) were part of these two parallel sections.
The three works selected for this text offer panoramas or points of view of masculine territories. Both in Domingo y la niebla, being a story about an older adult who does not give up his territory in a rural area despite extortion and death threats, as well as in Un varón or Jauría, which explore worlds of institutionalized violence, from the city and the field. And all three offer a version of the effects of violence, either as a denaturalization of the sense of self, as a form of uprooting and as a mechanism of harmful masculinities.
A man has all the elements of exoticizing violence and the world of drug trafficking or marginality that usually make up the climates and territories of Latin American cinema at international festivals, especially European ones. In other words, the marginal characters appear in peripheral spaces, submerged in perverse conditions, where following the line of inequality is the only way to survive. The city becomes a margin, especially outside the law, where life is usually an act of heroism. However, despite these elements that could trigger a pornomisery recipe book (which we have already seen in films by Ciro Durán or Víctor Gaviria, or even in those set in Colombia such as La virgen de los sicarios, by Barbet Schroeder, for example) , the filmmaker Fabián Hernández, escapes this type of form. Hernández does not grab the town. What we perceive is the interiority in a psyche that deals with masculine patterns.
A man is the story of Carlos, a young man who lives in a youth center in the Bogota neighborhood of Los Mártires, and who is dedicated to micro-selling drugs, hanging out with some friends, and occasionally visiting a sex worker sister. The way in which the filmmaker describes this context, recorded in the Bogotá areas of San Bernardo, Santa Fe, El Voto Nacional, La Estanzuela and Las Cruces, goes hand in hand with the general premise of the film, to elaborate a cartography of masculinities that prevail in these spaces, where the weak, delicate or sensitive have no place. And Carlos is constantly self-repressed for fear that he doesn’t fit into this environment of violent males that constantly need to prove his manhood. Learn to handle weapons, visit brothels or become hitmen.
Beyond these rituals of constant masculinity to which the character is subjected, what interests him are the paths that the character imposes himself to please. For this reason, the film goes from hardness to weakness, from the mask to the unveiling, from the ritual to renunciation. Carlos cares how he looks, that’s why the details in his haircuts, in the clothes he wears, in his actions with other men in the group, will show an idea of ??him, different from the construction of himself that he does. character sees as problematic.
In this masculine world, the feminine presences also belong to the cliché of the suburb: the prostitute and the absent mother (or in her sacrificed ideal), however, despite the stereotype, they contribute to putting together this portrait from complicity, the idea of ??a home desired or as opposed to the world of men that prevails as a look.
During the screening, the presence of the protagonist, who was not during the premiere or during the Q & A, was missed. Problems were also perceived in the sound design or sound editing, to the point that what they were saying was not well heard. the characters (even more so from Bogota slang), however, I consider that it is due to a sound work that prioritizes the sound of the street, of the space where Carlos travels. A kind of “clean” sound could have worked against this sensitive and successful search of the character in relation to this environment.
In La jauría, by Andrés Ramírez Pulido, the story also aims to describe a masculine universe, but this time marked by a situation of institutional corruption and from the struggle around the symbolic figure of the father. Everything in the film aims to question the father figure as harmful and the culture of drug trafficking as an inescapable part of the social component.
La Jauría starts the story from the point of view of Eliú (Jhojan Jiménez), who from the beginning we see imprisoned and being transferred with a group of teenagers to an experimental center for minors in the middle of an abandoned hacienda in the jungle. Little by little we learn that this mansion in the middle of nowhere, half built, belonged to a mobster in the area, and that after some deals with the youth center, this exploited workforce is obtained to improve it. However, this beginning leads to another narrative path, which has to do with the crime committed by Eliú, along with his friend El Mono, who later joins this group and becomes a destabilizing entity. The relationship between Eliú and El Mono is revealed with the reconstruction of some events, since they are taken to an inspection with a prosecutor: the recreation of a man’s crime and which, according to the young people, was due to confusion. Elihu wanted to kill his father. These two elements, exploitation or forced labor in a youth center where alternative methods of “reeducation” are practiced, and the imaginary relationship of this character with a past of violence and oppression since El Mono, are what define the tone of the film. towards possible release.
Ramírez Pulido uses fixed shots to convey his characters as archetypes, with a soulless character, almost souls who barely have time for a few moments of leisure. And it is also inevitable the allusion to a vitiated social universe to what is exposed in Monos, the film by Colombian Alejandro Landes, where the jungle also becomes a shelter or umbrella for violence, either as an arcade of confinement or paradise denied.
Winner of the Critics’ Week, La jauría is a film of affectations, of far-fetched exits and that evokes usual expressive condiments for metaphors of violence to the rhythm of a Leonardo Favio song, although the most interesting thing is in the description of the methods unorthodox for social reconversion.
Unfortunately, Domingo y la niebla is the least attractive film among the Latin American feature films presented at Cannes 2022. And it is a shame, since it was the first Costa Rican premiere in this official section. This film also appeals to a well-known story, that of the resistance to losing land, but not here as an ecological act but as an (pretentious) act of love and a narration marked by symbolism and a touch of fantasy that never ends. to curdle
A group of mobsters threatens the elderly Domingo (Carlos Ureña), who does not want to sell his house, to abandon it, however the resistance comes from his devotion to his dead wife, who is evoked as a spirit immersed in a recurring fog in area. This fantastic tone is wasted, not only because of the density of the fog that looks like smoke, but because it returns to this poetic figure in the materialization of a reflective and philosophical female voice-over, which looks affected.
The film is conceived from the beginning as an atmospheric rather than a narrative construction, it is the shadow of desire or nostalgia that is trying to be captured around the character, in relation to a dead wife and in conflict with what the space represents of that past. And under this starting point in a mise-en-scène full of dreamlike details, the start of the film is slow, and it is towards the end, in the last half hour, that the story becomes firmer, and at least the viewer is left with the feeling that he was able to grasp something in the middle of this blinding fog.
Director: Fabian Hernandez Alvarado
Screenplay: Fabian Hernandez Alvarado
Photography: Sofia Oggioni
Cast: Dilan Felipe Ramirez Espitia
Colombia, 2022, 90 minutes
Direction and script: Andrés Ramírez Pulido
Music: Pierre Desprats
Photography: Balthazar Lab
Cast: Jhojan Estiven Jimenez, Maicol Andrés Jimenez, Miguel Viera, Diego Rincon, Carlos Steven Blanco, Ricardo Alberto Parra, Marleyda Soto, Jhoani Barreto, Wismer Vasquez
Production company: Alta Rocca Films, Brave Grace
Colombia, France, 86 min, 2022
A Certain Regard
Domingo y la niebla
Direction and script: Ariel Escalante
Music: Alberto Torres
Cinematography: Nicholas Wong
Cast: Carlos Ureña, Sylvia Sossa, Aris Vindas, Esteban Brenes Serrano
Costa Rica, 92 min, 2022