“Seester for saille, only 5 peso”: Jarv’s best of South America and Africa
Today we do South America and Africa in my epic quest to find the best films of the decade. This is a short list (only 5 titles- I like round numbers), because if I’ve even heard of them, let alone seen them, then they’re automatically good, and I hadn’t seen as many as I thought- only about 15- I could have put 10 in, but I don’t think the bottom 3 warrant making a best of list, so there are a few near misses that I’m not mentioning. These are actually the best ones- and I’ve included the only one I outright hate as the Dishonourable Mention. I’ve got a couple more Brazilian Films to watch so I may come back and add to it, so we’ll see. Not to mention that several of them that I thought were 21st Century were actually late 90’s.
Anyhow on with the list.
5) Linha De Passe (2008-Brazil)
I find it difficult to write about this film. I mean, I know objectively it is a good film (I don’t think Sallas has ever made a bad one), but it was billed in this country as a sequel to the simply magnificent Central Station. It isn’t. It doesn’t even cover the same material.
Anyhow, LDP covers the tribulations of a favella dwelling Sao Paulo family. The heavily pregnant mother is a maid for a rich woman, the eldest son dreams of being a footballer, but he’s too old, the second son is a sort of priest in his spare time while holding down a shitty job in a petrol station, the second youngest is an out-and-out scumbag while the youngest is merely a kid. It is a good film, with moments of genuine brilliance (the motorcycle scenes), but at the end of the day it is an unremittingly bleak film and I can’t help but think it’s a tad overrated.
In all honesty, if you feel in the mood to watch a violence free film about poverty in Brazil, then watch Central Station. This is a good film, but that one is a great film.
4) The Devil’s Backbone (2001- Mexico)
Now we’re talking. Before Del Toro made his way to Hollywood to make Comic book films, he was a horror director of some note. This, his third effort, is a genuinely frightening ghost story set in a Spanish orphanage.
It’s a taut little film, but what elevates it head and shoulders above the crowd is the performance of the kids. Creepy, compelling stuff. To be honest, like with all Del Toro’s stuff, I found the non-supernatural elements of the film to be far more interesting than the ghost story. He captures life for the orphans in fascist Spain in a gripping and compelling fashion. A really, really good film.
3) Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001- Mexico)
I said this about Shaun of The Dead, but I think the same applies to this film- everyone forgets how fresh it was on release. Cuaron’s pre Harry Potter film is surprisingly complex, even if you can see the ending coming a mile away.
A cross between a coming of age story and a road movie, YTMT relies heavily on the central performances of the young leads, and luckily for them one of them is Bernal. It’s not a melodrama, as such, but it is a diverting time, and I stick it on every now and again at home if I can’t think of what else to watch.
It was unfairly labeled as soft porn in this country on release, but if you’re looking for wank material then this isn’t it.
You do have to wonder about the 28 year old woman that’s molesting them though.
2)Tsotsi (2005- South Africa)
This makes my best of the decade list, so I’m going to be brief with this as well. It was billed as the South African version of City of God. It isn’t- that’s absolute horseshit.
What it is, is a redemption story of a young township dwelling thug as he has to come to terms with the fact that he’s accidentally kidnapped a baby. It has none of the kinetic energy of City of God, and is not really comparable. Rather, I think this is a touching story, that’s well filmed and although it’s clearly going to end badly for our thug hero, you kind of hope that it won’t.
Stirring, Oscar winning stuff and well worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.
1)City of God (2003- Brazil)
As is to be expected, this Brazilian masterpiece (based on a true story) also ranks in my top 10 of the decade.
City of God is a kaleidoscope of mayhem and violence charting a young slum dweller, Rocket, as he grows up during the rise and fall of one of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious gangsters. A fucking monster of a film- and one that is endlessly entertaining, truly gripping and stylistically superb.
Apparently Meirelles next film, Blindness, is a steaming stack of shit, but that doesn’t matter- this is enough of a legacy for anyone.
Maria full of Grace (2003-Columbia)
Load of fucking hand wringing nonsense about drugs mules. I’ll give you a clue- fuckheads- this kind of blatantly manipulative shit only works if you give a fuck about any of the characters in the film.
Needless to say, I thought she was an obnoxious cow, and as such I did not even summon up the slightest bit of interest at her plight.
Fuck this noise. It’s also as boring as fuck, but that is a direct consequence of crushing itself to death by being “worthy”. It does, to be fair, ask questions, but half the problem is that it doesn’t even bother trying to answer them.
As usual, I’ve more than likely forgotten some, and I will be returning to update this list later (I’m thinking about a few more, that I desperately need to rewatch before putting them in or out)