By Mónica Delgado
We’re all Sailors (Todos Somos Marineros) has, in its first minutes, one of the most fascinating sequences seen in recent Peruvian cinema. Like waking up in a sinuous atmosphere, filmmaker Miguel Angel Moulet submits us, like one of his lead characters, to a sensation of disconcert, inside a ship of claustrophobic green, gray and blue tones. After this sort of abrupt awakening, of an unfinished dream, we witness the story of a group of Russian sailors which have been stranded in their ship for weeks, in some port in Chimbote, north of Peru. This economic urgency places them in a permanent state of waiting, which materializes itself when they disembark on the mainland, and the relations they build with some local women.
This group of scenes built by Moulet, with certain nervous blurry close up shots, like a waking dream, allows him to show the sensibility of the film, which goes from closed scenarios to open surroundings, showing a necessity of freedom. Throughout the film, those shots will show that the figure of the stranded boat can extend to the mainland, beyond the ship’s physicality.
Three Russian sailors leave the boat, a place where they spend hours, drink, sleep and await the message from the company that left them in that situation. Chimbote, a convulsed and marginal city, appears like a promise of shelter against a situation of inaction and forced exile. The owner of a local market restaurant (Julia Thays) and her young niece, who is also a street vendor (Gonzalo Vargas), become the possibility of an anchor. However, some tragic circumstances cancel this opportunity. Moulet elaborates beyond narratives of encounters or missing people, posing the atmosphere of a route towards the acceptance of a certainty, of an unavoidable future.
Premiered at the last Lima Film Festival in 2019, the first feature We’re All Sailors distances itself from films in similar situations, where stranded men suffer being away from their native land (even films of life at sea). The Peruvian filmmakers choses instead, to show how this uprooting becomes self-evident beyond the territories: the film concentrates in proving the premise of its title, in showing a humanity that suffers the same anxieties or pains, extending the terrains of the huge and solitary ship to this particular unremarkable coast of Peru. Chimbote is then an extension of this stranded ship, where the characters can’t leave or build their own path to freedom (not only the sailors but also the local characters). And this is the greatest achievement of the film, which poses a reference to a symbolic plane, sustained by long fixed shots and the following of the loving relation of the two Russian brothers, who barely exchange any dialogues in Russian, like ghostly entities with a neglect of ontological character.
In moments, the film seems to overdo things showing quotidian situations which emphasize the disconnection of the Russian brothers, or showing the strong bond they have. But Moulet successfully brings afloat his stronger premise: the existential tale on uprooting, whose mise-en-scène of open shots, inexpressive faces and dry stile, affirms his own trademark.
Directing and script: Miguel Ángel Moulet
Cinematography: Camilo Soratti
Editing: Nino Martínez Sosa
Production design: Hernán Pérez Menéndez, Luciana Espinoza
Sound design: Nicolás Tsabertidis, José Homer Mora
Cast: Ravil Sadreev, Andrey Sladkov, Julia Thays, Gonzalo Vargas Vilela
Perú, Dominican Republic, 2018, 104 mins