By Mónica Delgado & Aldo Padilla
We rescue two texts of the winners from the last Pingyao International Film Festival: the Roberto Rosselini award has been given to Maya Da-Rin A Febre, and the Best Director award has been given to César Díaz for Nuestras Madres.
A febre – With a world premiere in Locarno Film Festival and a stop in Wavelengths from Toronto Film Festival, Brazilian filmmaker Maya Da-Rin makes her first long feature with a different tale that poses the agency of some indigenous characters without being exoticized or paternalistic. A febre is the simple story of a 45 year-old father, a guard in a river port in Manaos, who receives the notice of a scholarship for his daughter, a nurse in the local medical post, who must go to Brasilia to study for five years. The possibility of the going away of her daughter makes him develop a strange fever, like a subtle symptom of resistance.
What is most notable about A febre is its treatment. If there’s not a formal search that distances the film from the predominant dispositive of independent brazilian cinema of the last years (fixed and panoramic shots, minimal dialogue, at ethnographic observation, local and natural spaces that define the characters), what Maya Da-Rin remarks is a way of seeing. It’s frequent the “use” that is given to the representation of originary communities or characters of indigenous ascendance in a cinema that looks to be kind with the festival formulas and their audience, usually from Europe, but in A febre this fear vanishes.
Da-Rin, who comes from visual arts and documentary research, builds the interior of Justino’s character (Regis Myrupu) from several elements of his surroundings, from the recovery of old oral legends, to familiar or work encounters, which give us some hints of yearnings and doubts. The departure of his daughter to the capital, his recently widowhood, and the boredom of a work life of over twenty years in the same post as guard poses as a life dependent of the economy, that is in need of a breaking point. And it’s there that the filmmaker introduces the element of the “other world”, that somehow is materialized in the arrival of the brother and his wife from deep in the jungle, who together approach this familiar and mythical work to the protagonist’s city space of Manaos. Thus, the return of Justino to the Desana community poses as a possibility, not only of breaking up with the city, but also of re-encounter with the mythical side cast aside.
Another value is the use of tukano, the original language that governs the majority of dialogues in the film, and which is not only used as a functional or sound choice, but it’s the language of this mythical tales, of home, and which reflects the approach of Justino to his homeland.
In most of cases with latinamerican films dealing with Andean or indigenous realities , modernity or industrialization end up conmitating the place of the characters. However, in A febre, the return to home is a vigorous affirmation, a return to the roots and the urgency of myth to keep imagining.
Nuestras Madres – The winner of Critic’s Week and Camera d’or of this year in Cannes looks over the complex revisionism of the long civil war in Guatemala through the eyes of a new generation which seeks to give answers to a conflict that defined the life of their predecessors. This conflict is transposed to today through trials where the affected must revive all the suffered crimes, with testimonies that repeat the tragedy over and over, where the sexual violence of the army stands out as a way of reprisal against the people and guerrillas.
The protagonist is a novice forensic anthropologist who travels a redefining path towards his family history, which is a huge unknown and which develops through the search of the bones of his father, a guerrilla fighter whose remains disappeared in one of hundreds of common graves hidden throughout Guatemala, places that didn’t discriminated between farmers and communist guerrilla fighters. Although the true road seems to take him towards comprehension and empathy to the suffering of women he finds in the way, from indigenous of small communities that need help to unearth their husbands, to focusing on the suffering of his own mother, who seems to have forgotten in the middle of the exhaustive search of his father.
Although maybe it’s possible to mention that Cesar Díaz lacks subtlety at the time of representing the search of this memory, since the fact that the protagonist is a forensic by profession generates an excessive remarking, as does the skeleton that he keeps rebuilding in a perfect way as part of an unnecessary idealization of the reconstruction of memory. This two facts seem to overshadow the strong testimony of women, who show great bravery when telling all the horrific violence lived through the conflict. Anyway, certain social critique is highlighted, specially as a critique of the government’s role, who seems to set certain obstacles to the recovery process of the missing, and there’s also some idea of how corruption seems like the only way to quicken any public objective.
The point of view chosen to be witness of the reconstruction of horror seems to look an involvement from the new generations, which have the possibility to participate from support and active listening, and also be part of the activism that stops impunity to reign free in the mist of so many conflicts that seem to be shut without faces and names.