Sunday, April 19, 2015

After the Rain (orig. Depois da Chuva) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing*

A Folha de São Paulo (S. Alpendre) review*
A Tarde (A. Meireles) review*
Jornal do Brasil review*
O Globo (R. Fonseca) review* (L. Vasconcelos) review* (A.  Koball) review* (V. Guimarães) review* (A. Oliveira) review* (C.A. Mattos) review*
O Grito (K. Lemos) review*
Revista Interludio (H. Augusto) review*

IndieWire (M. Gills) review

After the Rain (orig. Depois da Chuva) [2013] [IMDb] [AC]* (screenplay and co-directed by Cláudio Marques [IMDb] [AC]* along with Marília Hughes Guerreiro [IMDb] [AC]*) is a remarkable, critically acclaimed / award winning BRAZILIAN "coming of age" film that played recently at 2015 -- 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival.

Set at a somewhat upscale/privileged high school in Salvador, Bahia in the mid-1980s at the end of Brazil's military dictatorship period, the film would remind many (North) American Readers here of John Hughes-like [wikip] [IMDb] famous 1980s-era (North) American "coming of age" films (though no relation apparently between North American John Hughes and the codirector here ;-).

However, there's more going on in this film than the student characters portrayed in this film "coming of age."  Instead, arguably the film seeks to portray allegorically an entire nation at a moment when it was "coming of age."

For the issues at school reflected all-too-well the issues facing the whole country (Brazil) at the time:

The film opens with a relatively small group of interested students with some enthusiasm organizing the first student council elections in 20 years.  Concurrently, Brazil itself was preparing for its first elections in 20 years as well.  But the bone of contention among the students organizing this first student council election in 20 years was the school's insistence that it "vet" the candidates for Student Council President AND that its insistence that the President be elected by the Council (hence indirectly).   Similarly, much of Brazil's populace remained profoundly skeptical of the military government's proposed transition to civilian rule precisely because the military government insisted on the Brazilian presidential candidates be vetted and elected indirectly as well. 

Some of the students were heard complaining: "Why does the school insist that some people's votes should matter more than others?"  Others interestingly pointed out "Well, there are 3,000 students attending our school and only 30 of us who bothered to come to this meeting" ;-) ...  Sigh, "high schools" are the same pretty much everywhere ;-) ;-)

The film then comes to focus on a rather typical, somewhat brooding / skeptical, young man attending the school named Caio (played magnificently by Pedro Maia [IMDb] [AC]*).  And he had much reason to be skeptical.  He was a child of divorce, often in the middle of his parents arguments, and forced to intervene in those arguments with a level of restraint / reason that would NORMALLY not be expected of someone his age.  Presented with the conditions for "democracy" set "from above" be it by the administrators of his schools or by the leaders of the military junta running his country, he initially found both elections a "waste of time."  Indeed, he wrote as much in an civics essay in school for which, he famously got a Zero and was threatened with expulsion:

Basically, as a good, somewhat typical/angry/skeptical 16 year old, he wrote in his essay that he'd appreciate it if the school would teach students HOW TO THINK rather than WHAT TO THINK ;-) and then pointing-out that BOTH of the "vetted" Candidates for Brazil's Presidency had OBVIOUS connections to the military rulers nominally stepping down, he called Brazil not a Democracy but a Dementocracy ;-).   Anyone who ever wanted to call his/her high school Principal "A Fascist" ;-) would understand. ;-) ;-)

Anyway, with the initial help / support of a classmate and friend named Fernanda (played by Sophia Corral [IMDb] [AC]*) the students come to rally behind Caio, not in any dramatic or militant way, but simply indicating to the administrative "powers that be" that Caio was being punished for actually being right, and their "making an example of him" was simply depressing the rest of them.

So Caio, initially saved by his classmates, progressively gains confidence, comes to run a still very low-key campaign and ... yes (minor spoiler alert) finds himself by the end of the film elected by the students to be their first student council president. 

But despite everything, the film leaves one with questions: What now?  And did it really matter?

I've focused here on the two most imporant characters in the film, but there were others.  There was, of course, a privileged kid who initially simply expected to win the student council presidency.  There were also other even more skeptical "artist types" with which Caio initially hung out with, some of whom were _never_ convinced that even a "good" Student Council President could possibly "make a difference" (Again, I think of "Student Councils" at our high schools in the United States, and I agree ... NO ONE takes them particularly seriously here ... but then WE'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO NOT NEED TO HAVE THESE STUDENT COUNCILS TO BE TAKEN PARTICULARLY SERIOUSLY).

And of course, the film is intended to work at least in part as an allegory.

Anyway, I found the film to be very well crafted and well acted.  I could certainly identify with Caio, Fernanda and Caio's more skeptical "artistic friends."

But the central question -- does it matter? -- will probably haunt me / stay with me for a while.  It's a good question.  And hopefully a society can become complex enough, with enough spaces and opportunities for all to find self-fulfillment that elections won't need to matter much.    But unfortunately, at least now, the ADULT elections and the ADULT Councils to which we belong will continue to matter for a long, long time.

So please "be involved" and PLEASE VOTE folks.  These remain the only serious ways that one can hope to make a difference.

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

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