Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Greatest House in the World (orig. La Casa más Grande del Mundo [2015]

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

IMDb listing
FilmAffinity.com/es listing*

Celuloide Digital (F. Flynn) review*
Konexion.com.mx (R. Rosales Santos) review*
PrensaLibre.com (AP) review*
Revés.com (A.C. Guzmán) review*
ViveIberoAmerica.com (J.F. Caballero) review*

The Hollywood Reporter (J. Mintzner) review

The Greatest House in the World (orig. La Casa más Grande del Mundo [2015[ [IMDb] [FAes]* (codirected by Ana V. Bojorquez [IMDb] [FAes]* and Lucía Carreras [IMDb] [FAes]*, screenplay cowritten by Ana V. Bojorquez [IMDb] and Edgar Sajcabún [IMDb], story by Edgar Sajcabún [IMDb]) a small "indie" GUATEMALAN / MEXICAN COPRODUCTION, is among this year's Chicago Latino Film Festival's offerings ONE BEST / MOST EMOTIONALLY COMPELLING FILMS that I've seen since beginning my blog

The film tells the very simple story of a ten year old girl named Rocio (played magnificently by "a local" Gloria López [IMDb] [FAes]) growing-up with her mother (played by Mexican actress Miriam Bravo [IMDb] [FAes]*) and grandmother (played by "local" Fabiana Ortiz [IMDb] [FAes]*) out in the cragy and often mist covered hinterlands of N.W. (Huehuetenango / ) Guatemala close to the border of Mexico.

Neither Rocío's father nor _any_ other males of working age appear in the entire film, even though, Rocio's mother was very much pregnant in the story.  Why weren't there any young / middle age males in the story, I asked the director present for Q/A at the end of the screening, believing sincerely (and not necessarily unsympathetically) that there probably a feminist statement being made there.  Instead, the director quite sincerely responded that this is a part of Guatemala where almost all the working-age males _go up north_ (to Mexico and beyond to the United States) in hopes _to find better work_ to support the families that they leave behind at home.

So ... Rocio, who up to this point has been going-out with her mother each morning, herding the family's 15-20 or so sheep, playing with rocks on the (rocky...) pastures pretending that she's gonna build "the grandest house in the world" up there with those rocks ... comes to a day when, ma' is simply too close to delivery to go out with the sheep anymore.  And so ma' and grandma entrust Rocio to take the sheep out that day; ROCIO's "growing up" ;-)

'Cept, PUT YOURSELVES IN ROCIO'S SHOES ... this proves to be a pretty awesome responsibility.  Those 15-20 rather stubborn, not particularly bright sheep (and they have no dog to keep them together) represent a fair amount of this family's wealth (sheep aren't called LIVE STOCK for nothing).  And so poor Rocio who soon runs into a friend named Ixchumil (played by "local" but unrelated María López [IMDb] [FAes]*) perhaps a year or two older also tending her family's 15-20 sheep, and then a little boy their age (played by "local" Elder Escobedo [IMDb] [FAes]*) with a sling-shot and after being little kids out in the field, alone, playing, acting like regular 10-12 year olds, Rocio finds to her horror that she's "lost lone of her sheep," the littlest one in fact.

What to do?  She has to look for it.  Ixchumil and the little boy help her out for a bit, but then Ixchumil as only a 12 y.o. could say, tells Rocio that SHE has to go home with HER sheep or else SHE will get into trouble with HER family.  Sho Rocio's soon "out there, all alone" with her remaining 14-19 sheep looking for "the lost sheep."

She comes to the hut of an old man (played wonderfully, if not particularly helpfully it turns out by "local" Daniel Ramirez [IMDb] [FAes]*) who tells her that he _may_ have heard a sheep bleeting by a nearby ravine.  Rocio runs there and finds her lost sheep, but when she gets back to the old man's hut, her other sheep are now gone.  What happened?   Well, the old man is not Evil, just not particularly useful / reliable (anymore) ... the sheep just seemed to run away.

Sigh ... PUT YOURSELVES AGAIN IN 10 Y/O ROCIO'S SHOES ... this is the first day that Rocio was out with the family's sheep and ... SHE'S LOST MOST OF THEM.

You just want to cry ...

I asked the director about obvious Biblical allusions (this past Sunday, was, in fact "Good Shepherd Sunday" - 4th Sunday of Easter) as well as a possible influence of a WONDERFUL CLASSIC ITALIAN FILM, Vittorio DiSeca's Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette) [1948], and the director responded that certainly I was not the first to ask about the possible Biblical allusions, or about other films that touched on similar quite universal themes.  However, she said that she and her collaborators, who incidentally studied in Cuba, were _most inspired_ by Iranian cinema, and specifically a famous Iranian, similarly minimalist (and Oscar Nominated) film named Children of Heaven [1997] which was also about children, responsibility and the facing of frightful / unfairly significant loss.

Anyway, this is one heck of a film ... and as a MINOR (but IMHO _necessary_) SPOILER I just want to assure Readers here that when Rocio comes home after a clearly VERY ROUGH "FIRST DAY" ... the story DOESN'T END in an altogether sad way.  After all, she's coming home ... to family.

Again, wow, what a story!  And I do hope that after it completes its festival rounds, this film will happily become available on DVD / for streaming.  It's well worth the cry and the view.

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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