By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I know it sounds cliché to say that youths often take things for granted when they don’t have to struggle to survive. However, one cannot deny the truth in that statement. Not only is this a situation that occurs in the United States, but one that occurs even in poorer places such as those of Latin America. Arábia, a Brazilian entry for this year’s Cine Las Americas tells one such (fictional) story where an aimless teen, who lives a reasonably comfortable life, discovers the story of a man who has had a difficult life, but also some remarkable experiences in it.
Teenager Andre (Murilo Caliari) may not be wealthy, but he lives a comfortable and uneventful life. He and his brother mostly care for themselves, as their parents are always traveling away from home. The only adult supervision they receive is from an aunt who checks on them periodically. This aunt works as a nurse for the industrial employees who work in the town and when one particular worker named Cristiano (Aristides de Souza) gets seriously hurt, she asks Andre to collect his things and bring them to him. When gathering things from the man’s quarters, he discovers a diary which tells the story of the worker’s mostly nomadic life, the struggles he has faced and the love for a woman he has lost.
Written and directed by João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa, Arábia tells an engrossing and moving story that feels genuine and true to life. I love the juxtaposition of the protagonists of the story–the young, naive teen who seems apathetic about life, and the older, more experienced traveler who has worked hard to survive, but has discovered so much more about the world. The traveler has truly experienced life, love, loss, and plight, but is a better person because of it. I am certainly impressed with the storytelling skills of the filmmakers as I am with the acting of both Murilo Caliari and Aristides de Souza. The true standout is de Souza, though, who brings a world weary take to Cristiano, a man who isn’t quite ready to give up his search for a better life. I would have preferred more closure instead of the abrupt ending that the film has, but the journey leading up to the end is definitely one for the ages.