Fleeing Colombia and the FARC conflict after her husband died a woman and her two children arrive on an island named Fantasia located in the middle of the Amazon. This place sits at the crossroads of Colombia, Peru and Brazil, without belonging to any of those countries. It’s a mysterious outpost in a kind of netherworld where the dead and the alive coexist. They can now look for the deceased husband, and father, and avoid being noticed too much.
On this island the dead appear as real as the living. The dead have a body, they talk, they even help out with chores and, above all, they make themselves available to hold assemblies and talk about local politics and listen to islanders’ testimonies and grievances. The alive and the dead are on an equal footing with each other, they need to assert the same rights, so that the endless conflicts that have killed some and caused grief to others, can cease, and that wherever people may find themselves, in this world or the hereafter, they have importance, their lives matter.
Starting from a place, a situation and problems that are very real—the conflict with the FARCs and the complicated fate of Colombian refugees in Brazil—Brazilian director Beatriz Seigner manages to strike a good balance between fantasy storytelling and stern realism with “Los Silencios,” a film that she’s also written and produced. She can make the mundane irrational while avoiding sentiment or messaging, that now-common and much-loathed feature of so many films that bear some kind of commentary. Seigner is able to maintain a permanent air of mystery in her film, both in the political allegory and in the way she films this odd and poor community, who lives in a village on stilts that sometimes gets submerged by the rising water. The film’s dense soundscape in which singing birds, insects and dogs are recognisable but where other less identifiable noises are present, too, reinforces the feeling that nature and the supernatural world are often one and all. Slow and precise like a fable, “Los Silencios” will grant whoever is willing to doubt what he sees and hear a moving surprise ending.
No U.S. theatrical release date has been set as of this writing.
Five essential films from Brazil:
“Drained” (“O cheiro do Ralo”), dir. Heitor Dhalia, 2006
“The yellow mango” (“Amarelo Manga”), dir. Claudio Assis, 2002
“Elite squad” (“Tropa de Elite”), dir. Jose Padilha, 2007
“Central Station” (“Central do Brasil”), dir. Walter Salles, 1998
“Pixote,” dir. Hector Babenco, 1981
“Black Orpheus” (“Orfeo Negro”), dir. Marcel Camus, 1959