Amazonas Film Festival: Sunday, or Heading to the Jungle with the Man in the Communal Pants

By  · Published on December 11th, 2011

*FSR traveled to Manaus, Brazil to attend and cover the 8th Amazonas Film Festival. See all our coverage here.*

Not every day in Brazil is an adventure… sometimes you just want to go to a mall.

So after a night of drinking, arguing and partying Sunday morning began by sleeping in late. It was glorious. Once we awoke and ate though we realized there was time to kill before the day’s first screening, so clearly we had to visit the nearby shopping mall. A short, treacherous walk through traffic later and we were there.

The electric doors slid open, and we stepped into a mall in an exotic and foreign land… and it looked just like any other mall. Okay, so we weren’t really all that surprised, but would it have killed the mall manager to add some monkeys in trees or something? The stores and shoppers pretty much looked identical to the ones you’d find in almost any mall back home. Clothing and electronics stores, but no book shops. Fat and too-skinny people, but few truly attractive ones. And a food court featuring hot dogs with peas and carrots on them.

The only real difference I noticed (aside from those nasty dog toppings) was with the price tags. Pretty much every store with items priced $50 or more (or the Brazilian real equivalent) featured an installment plan/layaway price breakdown on the tag. Stereos, jeans, Xbox consoles, shirts, blenders, video games… everything had a big, bold tag advertising a monthly payment option.

It was an odd sight but far from the oddest of the day. One more would come later when we arrived at the theater for the evening’s screenings. One of the American journalists neglected a very important element of the theater’s dress code, the only element apparently… men cannot wear shorts.

So they made him wear a pair of communal pants. And he looked like an escapee from a mental institution.

But even that wasn’t the most striking or unusual image we encountered. After the films finished around 10pm our convoy headed down to the docks where we boarded a fairly large, two story boat for a trip up the Rio Negro river (one of the two that form to combine the Amazon). Roughly two hours later, after slowly motoring our way upstream with pitch black banks on either side, we arrived at a dock jutting out from a hole in the trees.

We exited the boat and walked a long, floating dock to the shore where we proceeded to follow a wooden path for a quarter mile through the Amazon jungle. The darkness on either side covered the presence of any creatures that may have been looking back at us, but we could still hear them… animals of all shapes, sizes and intents, just waiting for someone to lean into the darkness a bit too far or for a straggler to unintentionally separate themselves from the pack.

At which point we rounded a bend in the path and came face to face with a three-story floating hotel called the Amazon Jungle Palace.

Things proceeded from there to get progressively weirder including dinner at 1am and an impromptu Brazilian engagement ceremony (for me an my girlfriend) that featured one half of a Chinese finger trap called an “abduction ring” and resulted in our picture in the Lifestyle section of the newspaper the following day…

So let’s move on to the day’s movies!


Which Cheese Do You Want? (Brazil, dir. Cintia Domit) – An old couple sits calmly in their apartment reading in silence. When one of them decides to go to the grocery store her husband makes the mistake of asking for some cheese. The title of this short is the woman’s reply, and it escalates into a conversation which soon becomes an argument as to the couple’s state of happiness and contentment.

The Lady of Peixoto Square (Brazil, dir. Douglas Soares and Allan Ribeiro) – This short examines a woman who’s become a constant on a particular bench in a particular park, but it does so through the people around her. We barely see the woman herself, at least until the end, and instead see images of the park with narration from people giving their thoughts on her identity.

The Miracle Room (Brazil, dir. Claudio Marques e Marilia) – This short, narrative-free doc looks at people making a spiritual pilgrimage to Bom Jesus da Papa. The people come to pray and pay their respects, but many of them are there for a more personal reason. They hope their time in the presence of the cross will cure them of all number of physical afflictions. It doesn’t of course, but as with all things religious this is a matter of faith.

Braxilia (Brazil, dir. Danyella Proenca) – Poet Nicolas Behr recites one of his works about the city of Brasilia and accompanies the text with wanderings throughout the urban landscape.


The Last Cangaceiros (Brazil, dir. Wolney Oliveira) – This documentary looks at a long married couple who decided in their nineties to reveal the truth as to their identities. The duo, Durvinha and Moreno, were once members of the country’s most famous gang under its most infamous leader, Lampião. The rest of the cangaco members were killed more than a half century ago, but these two spirited away into hiding where they changed their names and went on to lead normal lives. Their revelation turns them into folk heroes, and the film explores their history and the effect the news has on family, friends and strangers alike.

Like the evening’s other film (below) this is a very localized release. The focus, information and appeal are all aimed at people with a pre-existing knowledge of the events, and audiences who lack that back story may lose something in the translation. One example is the clear contrast between the couple’s actions while in the gang and their reception after their coming out party. We’re told the gangs killed people for money and other such things, and yet they’re revered as heroes for some reason. It’s not a Robin Hood situation as they clearly spent their booty on fancy outfits and costumes instead of sharing it with the poor. Still, it’s an interesting glimpse into a country’s history even if it isn’t entirely clear in its importance.

The Student (Argentina, dir. Santiago Mitre) – A young man whose primary interest in life seems to be the bedding of as many women as possible finds a new focus after attending a meeting hosted by a very charismatic speaker. He sleeps with her, of course, but quickly becomes interested in her political agenda and soon makes it his own. His intuitiveness and quick thinking gets him noticed by players higher up the political food chain, and he finds himself recruited and wooed for larger purposes. But can a person’s ideals last for long up where the oxygen is so thin?

Writer/director Santiago Mitre’s film is a far cry from his previous work as writer, the thriller Carancho, in that it eschews a wider appeal in favor of striking a very specific chord with local audiences. The politics in play here are all of the small and seemingly inconsequential variety, so instead of power plays for the presidency or a seat in Congress these people are maneuvering to join the city council or town board. Confusing the matter for outsiders is the real life backdrop against which the film is set, as the history of Buenos Aires is integral to the characters actions. It’s confusing at times, dry at others, and never really feels as important as the people onscreen seem to believe.

*FSR traveled to Manaus, Brazil to attend and cover the 8th Amazonas Film Festival. See all our coverage here.*

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.