The Global Lens Film Series starts today at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater. Now in its third year, the festival’s mission is to “promote cross-cultural understanding through cinema” by screening narrative films of merit that have been overlooked by U.S. distributors.
This year’s offerings include seven feature-length films as well as a program of short films, running through Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the Grand Lake. The films can also be seen in other Bay Area venues, including the Balboa Theater in San Francisco, Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, and the San Francisco Art Institute.
One of the movies showing this year is Lucia Murat’s Almost Brothers (2004), a Brazillian film written by Murat and Paulo Lins which won many awards in film festivals in Brazil, Cuba and France. The story concerns two childhood friends who later encounter each other in the 1970s in the Ilha Grande prison on an island off the coast of Brazil where political prisoners are locked away. The group organizes a collective to bargain with prison officials for better treatment and operates by a strict code of conduct. Later, non-political prisoners are brought to the island and tensions arise between the two factions, with the two friends, Miguel and Jorge, often finding themselves on opposite sides of the divide.
Years later the two meet again, when Miguel is a prominent politician and Jorge an imprisoned gang leader running his criminal activities from jail via cell phone. Miguel seeks Jorge’s support for community projects in the neighborhoods controlled by Jorge’s gang, but the distance between the two friends only increases as they discuss the troubles of the past and the politics of the present.
Murat and editor Mair Tavares do an excellent job of juggling the three timeframes, tracing the relationship between the two men from the innocence of childhood to the idealism of youth to the resignation and bitterness of their jaded adulthood. And the characters, played in their young adulthood by Caco Ciocler and Flavio Bauraqui and later by Wenrer Schuneman and Antonio Pompeo, never seem anything less than real.
Early scenes of the the two boys dancing together as their fathers play samba music together establish a theme of racial divides conquered by culture, music, passion and simple naivete. Later scenes in the island prison feature a similar vibe, with the collective’s members playing music together, battling the prison administration together, and voting together on the collective’s conduct and bylaws.
When trouble arises between the two groups of prisoners, the anger and violence of the situation is made all the more heartbreaking when juxtaposed with images of the two boys dancing together before politics and race could intervene, and the growing rift is made concrete by the construction of a wall to separate the warring factions.
And the scenes of the two grown men, facing each other across a table in a prison visitation room later in life, each entrenched in his position and wary of the other, brings the film to a gentle and disturbing coda, with ancient rivalries dashing any hope of reconciliation.
For a complete schedule, see www.globalfilm.org.
Photograph: Caco Ciocler and Flavio Bauraqui play childhood friends torn apart by politics and ideology in Lucia Murat’s Almost Brothers (Brazil, 2004).