Friday, October 17, 2014

August Winds (orig. Ventos de Agosto) [2014]

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

IMDb listing listing*

August Winds (orig. Ventos de Agosto) [2014] [IMDb] []* (directed and cowritten by Gabriel Mascaro [IMDb] []* along with Rachel Ellis [IMDb] []*) is a evocative / thought-provoking "snapshot of life" / more "fatalistic" than either "existentialist" or "personalist" film about a young Afro-Brazilian couple, Shirley (played by Dandara de Morais [IMDb] []*) and Jeison (played by Geová Manoel dos Santos [IMDb] []*), living in a small hamlet along the Atlantic Coast somewhere in North Eastern Brazil [en.wikip] [pt.wikip].* The film played recently at the 2014 (50th Annual) Chicago International Film Festival.

Shirley had returned to the village from "the city" (presumably either São Paulo [en.wikip] [pt.wikip]* or more probably Salvador [en.wikip] [pt.wikip]*) to take care of her grandmother.  As such, she does have at least _some_ (a little) "stuff" -- an iPod-like music player which she does enjoy using as she sunbathes or otherwise rests during the heat of the day.

Jeison presumably has never really left the village.  As such, he's adept at the skill-set needed to live-out, more or less happily, one's life in this hamlet where the ONLY force that really changes ANYTHING is Nature -- those annual "August Winds" that bring in a storm or two which do produce some temporary chaos ("change") and move around the coastal sand-bars a bit.  Otherwise EVERY DAY is basically the same and actually NOT ALTOGETHER BAD as IT'S SUNNY MOST OF THE TIME ;-).

Life for Jeison involves working at a local coconut plantation (climbing palm trees to harvest said coconuts and later processing them using simple tools that really haven't changed since PERHAPS the Portuguese first arrived bringing with them the cast-iron needed to make a good machete), fishing, and _snorkling_ to explore a bit (the snorkle and fins are Jeison's ONLY arguably "superfluous" possessions) and perhaps pick-up an occasional octopus from the ocean floor to vary the diet a bit to "impress" Shirley, his girlfriend.  The two make love on the bed of a coconut truck (a cinematically evocative image certainly, but I can't imagine it's all that comfortable ... ;-), on the beach and amidst the palm trees.  Arguably there hasn't been a place this nice this side of Eden.

But then ... life is, in fact, a lived as if "inside a freeze frame" and it requires Jeison pulling-out of the water a human skull (kinda like in Shakespeare's Hamlet) for both Jeison and Shirley to "wake up" for a while and begin to reflect a bit.  After taking the skull to a older man in the village, wondering if he could identify who it once belonged to (the skull had two gold teeth, which the two thought could identify him), the old man (1) does, in fact, identify the man as someone who had lived in the village and died some 50-60 years ago, and (2) he waxes eloquent about life in the village telling the two: "We who live in a village like this aren't destined for either Heaven or Hell.  Instead, like this man, we're destined to be claimed by the sea."

Indeed, he does have a point.  Those August storms do, in their own time, change the coastlines.  And the village cemetery, presumably once "built in a safe place," now finds itself precariously on the beach from where sometime in the future those buried there, will, like the man who died 50-60 years before (and perhaps was even buried there), be swept back into the sea.

So Change DOES take place in the village, RELENTLESSLY, if VERY, VERY SLOWLY, and this comes to MILDLY disturb Jeison (if not Shirley, who does at times find life in the village to be "boring").  The rest of the gentle if also reflective film "meanders" from there...

I just found the film a remarkable capture of a way of life that is fascinatingly peaceful / timeless.  And it corresponds well to _some_ of the insights of our Servite Friars living and working out in Acre in the Amazon region of Brazil

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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