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November 14, 2014

Starz Denver Film Festival 2014 - August Winds

august-winds-poster.jpg

Ventos de Agosto
Gabriel Mascaro - 2014
FiGa Films

There is a fantastic shot, or at least fantastic for those who pay attention to what is happening within the frame. On each side of the frame is an extremely tall palm tree. Nothing seems to be happening other than the trees swaying in the breeze. The shot is from a distance, so it take a couple moments to realize that two men are climbing each of the trees. The climb seems effortless based on how quickly they raise themselves to the top. Because they are small figures in the shot, their agility can only be imagined.

Most of the shots within August Winds are done with a fixed camera, forcing the viewer to take in all that is within the frame, observing the motion within the shot. In the same way, the viewer has to actively put together some of the narrative pieces, mostly about a man and a woman, and a small village near the northeastern coast of Brazil.

Shirley and Jeison work collecting cocoanuts for a never seen businessman. While Jeison dives among the coral reefs for calamari to sell, Shirley sunbathes on a small boat, listening to hard rock, in one scene dowsing her body with Coca-cola. A stranger appears with equipment to record the sounds of the wind. A newscast discusses how the coastal area is eroding. What we are watching may well be the eroding of a way of life in a village so small and remote, it has no name.

There is the sense that one can't fight nature, there are only stopgap measures or total surrender. An attempt to block water from rising fails as it floods the floor of the house belonging to Jeison's father. A very low, makeshift wall, hardly six inches high, does nothing to hold the tide that will eventually cover a coastal graveyard.

This is the first narrative feature by Gabriel Mascaro, following a series of documentaries. In a new interview, Mascaro discussed the making of the film, as well as some of his artistic influences.

Lest one assumes that a film frequently described as meditative is also a somber viewing experience, there is wry humor with Jeison trying to negotiate the discovery of a dead body with what passes for legal authority in the closest city. While we only see a couple of the houses, Jeison patiently explains where his nameless village is located, and that there are no street names or numbers.

Even with the knowledge that this village and its way of life may soon disappear, Mascaro also celebrates nature with Shirley and Jeison's matter of fact nudity, the billowing, gray clouds, the waves on the beach, and mostly the wind through the trees.

Posted by peter at November 14, 2014 06:58 AM