Monday, April 15, 2013

7 Boxes (orig. 7 Cajas) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing

7 Boxes (orig. 7 Cajas) [2012] (screenplay and directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori, w. screenplay collaboration by Tito Chamorro) is a critically acclaimed / award winning Paraguayan film (including a nomination for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film at the 27th (2012) Goya awards, Spain's equivalent of the Oscars).  It played (subtitled in English) recently at the 29th (2013) Chicago Latino Film Festival.

The film has also proven to be the most successful movie ever to be made or even shown in Paraguay, attendance having beaten out the previously most popular movie ever to be shown in Paraguay (James Cameron's Titanic [1997]) by nearly 2 to 1, this in a country that's been previously so poor / so marginalized that's made a total of only about 20 movies in its entire history).

My only regret is that the film did was not submitted (representing Paraguay) for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th (2012) Oscars because while it may not have won, IMHO it would have stood a very good chance of making the top five.  (I'm not sure now if it would qualify of this year's (2013) competition.

So what's the film about?  Well it's basically a cross between Slumdog Millionaire [2008] and the Vittorio de Sica classic Bicycle Thieves (orig. Ladri di Biciclette [1948].

The story is about a day in the life of Victor (played Celso Franco) who freelances in the central market in Asunción, Paraguay, transporting goods (for paying patrons) on his wheelbarrow.  The movie begins with Victor's older sister Tamara (played by Nelly Davalos) videocapturing Victor pushing his wheelbarrow using Tamara's coworker Alejandra's (played by Liliana Alvarez) cellphone.  Tamara stops Victor and shows him the phone and the little video that she made of him pushing the wheelbarrow around.  "Isn't this cool?"  she exclaims, showing him then some other features that the phone has.  "Yes, it certainly is.  How much is it?"  "Oh, forget it.  It's my coworker's.  She needs to sell it because she needs the money for when the time comes time for her to deliver.  She's asking 800,000 Guarani (about $120) for it.  Maybe she'd go down to 400,000 Guarani but that's still way beyond our price range."  "Hmm..."

Still the image of the cellphone sticks in Victor's head.  So he goes over to a cell-phone kiosk in the market to price phones.  He knows the attendant Leti (played by Katia Garcia), but the phones she has are all basically of the same price range (300K Guaranis and up) and so out of his reach.  However while he's there, Leti gets a phone call from a friend/relation named Gus (played by Roberto Cardozo) who, among other things, tells her that the guy that he has to deliver his goods didn't show up this time.  So she asks Victor: "Hey do you want a quick delivery job?"  "Sure."  She tells him to go over to Gus' butcher shop and that he'd have a job for him to do.

When Victor comes to Gus' shop, Gus tells him the deal.  He wants him to transport seven boxes from his shop to another at the other end of the market and if he'd do that, he'd receive 600,000 Guarani as payment.  Wow!  (That'd be more than enough for that cellphone).  But Victor is incredulous.  How's he gonna be sure that Gus would really pay him that kind of money.  Gus shows him a $100 bill (which he tells him is worth about 600,000 Guarani).  Then he tears it in two and gives Victor one half.  Gus then tells Victor that when he gets word that Victor's delivered the goods, he could come back for the other half of the $100.  Great!

Victor has Gus' attendants load-up his wheelbarrow with the seven boxes and heads off toward the other end of the vast central market with visions of a nice video capturing cell-phone in his head.  Along the way, Victor meets up with a friend about Victor's age named Liz (played by Lali Gonzalez) telling her of his good fortune. Together they continue then on their mission.

Well about 5 minutes after Victor leaves Gus' butcher shop, the original delivery guy, Luis (played by Nico Garcia) shows-up running with his wheelbarrow.  He's apologetic.  He had been delayed at the pharmacy (and viewers will have seen this).  Luis has an 18 month old son with diabetes.  He had been at the pharmacy to get insulin for the child but didn't have the money.  He had tried to explain to the attendant at the pharmacy that while he didn't have the money today (about 300,000 Guarani) he'd certainly have it the next day (after the delivery of Gus' shipment).  Luis even tried to leave his own cellphone with the Pharmacy attendant as collateral.  But the attendant was adamant.  The owner of the pharmacy had a simple rule: No credit for anybody.  People had to pay upfront for their medications, no exceptions.  "But this is a matter of life and death of child." "It's ALWAYS a matter of 'life and death' ..."  So now Luis was late.  But boy did he need to deliver those boxes (or else his 18 month old WOULD DIE ...).  Gus shakes his head "Sorry, you weren't here.  I gave the job to another guy ..."  So Luis leaves Gus' butcher shop desperate to find "the other guy" with Gus' boxes ...

On the way to deliver those boxes, Victor runs into his sister again.  He tells her, "Hey would you believe it, I got a job that could pay for that cellphone!"  "Don't be ridiculous! Where you gonna get that kind of money that quickly?"  "No seriously, all I have to do is deliver these boxes."  He shows Tamara the half a hundred dollar bill and tears it again in half, telling her to give the now quarter of a $100 to her coworker as a downpayment for the cell phone."

RIGHT AFTER HE DOES THIS, SOMEONE COMES OUT OF NOWHERE AND STEALS / RUNS OFF WITH ONE OF THE BOXES!  Victor tries to give chase to the guy but loses him.  When he comes back to his wheelbarrow and the other six, he and Liz spot the rather muscular 20 something Luis with his wheelbarrow bearing down on them.  "Hey I need those boxes!"  They quickly run off with the wheelbarrow and the six remaining boxes finding a place to ditch Luis in the labyrinth of this large central market.  Much then ensues ...

A question could, of course, be asked "What the heck is in these boxes that makes them so valuable to begin with."  The film does give an answer that I'm not going to reveal here except that it's not necessarily what one would expect and yet does make sense...  Nor will I reveal how the story ends except to say that the story is obviously well structured and that what we learn of pretty much all the characters during the course of the story allows one to have at least some sympathy for most of them.

Honestly, what a well structured story / parable and what a great job!  

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1 comment:

  1. Where can I find this movie to watch? I can't find it for purchase anywhere nor do Netflix or Amazon have it available to stream.