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Natan Machado Palombini in ALAMAR (Photo: Film Movement)

Edited, Photographed, Written & Directed by
Pedro González-Rubio
Produced by Jaime Romandia &
Released by Film Movement
Spanish & Italian with English subtitles
Mexico. 73 min. Not Rated
With Jorge Machado, Roberta Palombini, Natan Machado Palmbini &
Néstor Marín “Matraca”  

The natural beauty of the Mexican Caribbean automatically boosts the no-budget production value of director Pedro González-Rubio’s DIY (crew of two) hybrid. Keep this in mind during Alamar’s opening fuzzy, black-and-white moments, capsulizing the whirlwind courtship of Mexican Jorge and Italian Roberta, the birth of their son, Natan, and the couple’s separation—according to her, they’re from different realities. Her talk-show speak makes sense. You’ll know exactly what she means when five-year-old Natan travels thousands of miles to spend some time with his father out in a cabin hoisted above the water, home to a hungry and roving crocodile.

González-Rubio counts on the exotic surroundings and, for many, a foreign way of life to entice the viewer, and he achieves this, especially during the incredible underwater footage of Jorge and his graying but still-spry co-fisherman diving down and spearing lobsters (yes, they scream when pierced). Adding to his derring-do, Jorge looks like a super-lithe, tattooed Benjamin Bratt, with thick, flowing hair Fabio would envy. His livelihood, dependent on the second largest coral reef in the world, hasn’t changed that much in thousands of years. All he needs: a boat and spear and snorkels, though modern gadgetry isn’t far away.

Filmed off of the Yucatan Peninsula, the often sundrenched videography suits the desolate seascape and refrains from idealizing Jorge’s life. González-Rubio doesn’t overemphasize the austerity either, but it’s never far from mind. (Where are the bathrooms? Where do they bathe? Not that the film asks you to choose, but I agree with Roberta.) Through the rituals of fishing, gutting (the fish heads are tossed to the waiting crocodile), and scaling, the director draws out the tender father and son interactions, played, if that’s the right word, by real-life father and son Jorge Machado.

One of the first displays of their relationship occurs on Natan’s first boat ride to dad’s shack. Sitting cross-legged at Jorge’s feet, and completely jetlagged, the fading boy slowly tilts over, saved from toppling over by Jorge’s gentle propping up of Natan’s shoulder. Among the many lessons the watchful father teaches his son is the importance of luck and patience when fishing for barracuda. Natan—obedient, curious, good-natured—should then be a pro. (Clone this child.) In one of the delicate story lines, a beautiful and brazen white egret makes herself at home, flying into the wooden hut expecting to be hand fed. Jorge obliges, picking off roaches crawling on the walls. The migrating bird, which they name Blanquita, is reminder that, like Natan, she’s only a temporary guest.

Without an obvious imposed narrative, Alamar’s more a cinema vérité home movie than a documentary or a feature film, but one where you really feel you’re there. It’s all about the details of the father/son bond, and at 73 minutes, González-Rubio avoids stretching the film to make it more significant than it is. Still, it feels like an introduction, to what, I’m not sure, or the most delicate of novellas. Those used to films like Tulpan with barely fictional characters in a real-life rustic setting might feel that Alamar is unfinished in comparison, and be left wanting a bit more. Jorge forgoes the trappings of modern life, González-Rubio the strictures of storytelling. Kent Turner
July 14, 2010



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