Film festival Retreat into Brazilian cinema

First in a four-film series, ‘Meu Pais’ played to a jam-packed audience.

Bilal Iqbal February 23, 2013
Manuela, mentally handicapped, quickly becomes attached to Marcos after the death of their father. PHOTO: FILE


Meu Pais, or My Country, is set over a few days, documenting the forced return of Marcos (Rodrigo Santoro) to Brazil. But you would be forgiven for thinking it has all the time in the world.

The film was first of a four-film festival that started at the Brazilian embassy on Thursday. The festival eschews well-known Brazilian classics in favour of some of the more recent productions. The aim of the festival, the third of its kind organised by the embassy in the last 18 months, is to provide access to Brazilian films that may not be easy to acquire in Pakistan, according to Third Secretary Helena Lobato da Jornada.

The rain on Thursday failed to deter film aficionados from coming to the screening in numbers. The doors were opened at 6pm, with guests pouring into the small reception area, with coffee and cookies on offer.

Ambassador Alfredo Leoni told The Express Tribune that they aim to familiarise Pakistanis with Brazilian culture through such events, which in turn will help strengthen the cultural ties between the two countries. The embassy, he said, also offers free-of-charge Portuguese language and capoeira (a Brazilian martial arts incorporating music and dance) courses. He urged interested people to get in touch with the embassy.

The doors to the screening room opened at 6:30pm sharp and the film started a few minutes later, once everyone was seated.

The 75-seater hall was packed to capacity --- there were more than 80 confirmations, according to Ambassador Leoni. There were a few walkouts in the middle of the film, but the audience in general remained fully engrossed by the film. The screening went without a hitch.

The bulk of the film sits on the execution rather than technical or narrative wizardry. The premise is nothing new: an estranged son returns to his homeland on his father’s death and must take care of a few things before he can go back to his life in Italy. Throw in a younger brother who is a gambling addict and has driven the family business to near ruin and a mentally handicapped half-sister that the son never knew existed and it does not take a genius to figure out where the film is headed.

Andre Ristum’s directorial effort is understated and laidback, letting things happen at their own slow pace. In a way, the film’s structure mirrors that of its main character --- Marcus, never quite decided, never quite sure.

Take the opening scene for instance, a static frame of a beach with young children playing. There is no exposition and the relevance of this scene will not become apparent until later in the film, but it sets the tone, allowing you to get cozy and reflective --- absorbing the film as if sunbathing instead of being fed action-filled explosive scenes. Your average Bollywood-guzzlers may not be the best audience for the film, but those willing to stray from the usual may find in Brazilian cinema a much-rewarding experience.

Given the title of the film, one might have expected to see more of Brazil, but that was not so. The film was mostly restricted to the family home and a couple of other indoor locations. Brazil’s charms were not on display, not this Thursday.

Even so, the film did hit a homerun with film aficionados, with a few walking up to the organisers at the end to express how much they loved it.

Kings and Rats will be screened at the embassy on Saturday, followed by 360 on Sunday. Attendance is free but requires advance booking, with the seats to be filled on first-come-first-served basis. Registration details are available on the embassy’s website.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2013.


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