Soy Nero: Rafi Pitts stigmatises the way Americans behave towards the ‘Other’
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2016: American day at the Berlinale kicked off on a critical note with a film about a young Mexican who wants to be a "Green Card soldier"
Six years after the masterful Iranian film The Hunter [+see also:
film profile], charismatic Persian filmmaker Rafi Pitts returns to the competition at the Berlinale with Soy Nero [+see also:
interview: Rafi Pitts
film profile], produced by Germany (Twenty Twenty Films), France (Senorita Films) and Mexico. The film stigmatises the way Americans behave towards the ‘Other’, within and beyond their borders, through the story of Nero, a young Mexican who has entered the United States illegally and wants to be a "Green Card soldier" - ie, to obtain a green card by joining and fighting with the American army, but fails, despite his best efforts, to make people believe that he feels a sense of belonging to the country he grew up in.
The first part of Soy Nero, which opens on the military funeral of a father, with the American flag being handed back to his family, and the return of Nero from just over the other side of the border (which is close enough to be used to play volleyball with the young Americans on the other side), presents Nero as an illegal immigrant willing to do anything to go back to living in the United States. He crosses the border by hitching a ride with a man travelling with his young daughter, a pleasant man who, in Nero’s eyes, represents all the extremes typically associated with Americans – sometimes solemn and menacing, at others full of good humour and warmth, a man who, with a gun in his glove compartment as a precaution and a boastful attitude disliked by the local police force, is practically bipolar! Nero’s destination is Los Angeles, where he is surprised to find his brother Jesus not at the garage where he thought he worked as a mechanic, but in an extravagant villa in Beverly Hills, giving rise to some equally tasty scenes and dialogue.
The second half of the story, which is characterised by just as cheeky and sarcastic humour as the first (for example, the scene in which Mohammed arrives from Michigan, a bomb disposal expert nicknamed Armstrong for the way he walks in his reinforced suit…), shows our young hero fighting in the Middle East alongside other young men who, like him, feel lost, left to their own devices in the middle of the desert, fighting for a cause they don’t really understand – which makes the fight to the death that follows seem even more ridiculous.
Rafi Pitts plants dialogues throughout the film with rare intelligence, dialogues in which each word, heavy with meaning or part of a quip (as the film has us laughing surprisingly often, from start to finish), is deliberate. This also holds true for all the scenes (that show the stages in Nero’s journey one by one), all of which are perfectly put together and energetic whilst giving the viewer time to make themselves comfortable and fully enjoy all the dimensions and levels of meaning, all the while smiling, in spite of everything, at Pitts’ cheek and insight, that is to say his ability to evoke very serious situations without losing sight of their irony.
(Translated from French)