Monday, March 22, 2010
Director: José Padilha
Garapa is a film about contrasts; it focuses its attention on the lives of three Brazilian families whose major ailment is extreme hunger.
When they can't afford milk, one of the families relies on garapa (a drink made out of water and sugar cane) to satiate its hunger. While a mother from another family has to hide milk so her alcoholic husband won't sell it to buy cachaca (ironically nothing more than fermented garapa).
This might be a too obvious example of contrast but director Padilha makes sure that his movie becomes more of a clash of ideas and emotions than a mere "let's save the world" documentary.
The film might have United Nations bookends but it's center is pure out-of-the-box filmmaking that dares us to see how much we can take.
Most of the scenes are made out of moments where filth, human misery and despair might provoke actual physical discomfort in audience members who, with reason, would run away from a similar scene in real life.
Padilha asks us then why is it easier for us to confront moments of pain like this on a movie screen than out in the streets. It's especially interesting to see the dichotomy he creates between our ability to remain seated while we watch people suffer and the relation this has to the fact that it's being filtered through film (just how much have our notions of non fiction have to do with a certain disbelief on what we see onscreen is a different matter altogether).
He cleverly shoots the film in high contrast black and white, which tricks our mind into thinking we might be watching a neorrealist film in the tradition of Luchino Visconti's La Terra Trema.
The milky texture of the whites is unsettling enough to make us aware that the intensity of the light sometimes helps conceal darker truths.
During some scenes the image turns almost completely dark except for little creases inside the shacks that allow glimmers of light to show us reality in subtle strokes.
It's mostly this contrast between the strange, almost primitive, beauty of the images onscreen and the raw tragedy they portray that encompass what Garapa is all about.
Like the problem it deals with, you can't just watch it and establish what's right, what's wrong or how to fix it.