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Absence: Somewhere between nowhere and oblivion


- The official competition of the Taormina Film Festival, which got under way recently, is hosting the screening of Chico Teixeira’s latest film this week

Absence: Somewhere between nowhere and oblivion
Matheus Fagundes and Vinicius Zinn in Absence

In an environment full of presence, an absence can serve as a spot right in the middle of the sun, which ends up growing so big that it blots out its own light. The Absence [+see also:
film profile
that the title of the new film by Brazilian director Chico Teixeira refers to is actually an absent father who acts like a woodworm, first of all eating away at and weakening a structure, and subsequently bringing an end to people’s strength and integrity. The movie is a co-production between Brazil, Chile and France, and naturally, the European share was undertaken by Ciné Sud Promotion after the production passed through Films in Progress in Toulouse in 2014.

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The movie - which was premiered in the Panorama section of the Berlinale, won the top prize at Cinélatino upon its return to Toulouse and is now screening at the Taormina Film Festival - adheres to the slogan “less is more” as it presents the surroundings of Serginho (Matheus Fagundes), our teenage protagonist, who has been forever branded by emptiness. What is left of his family unit comprises an alcoholic mother who makes birthday cakes to order, which she then never gets paid for, a younger brother and Serginho himself, who is forced to take responsibility for his family. And so, much against his will owing to the abuse he has to endure, he goes out to work at a flea market with his uncle. In his spare time, he pays visits to a teacher, goes to the circus, and spends time with his deaf friend, with the girl he likes or with both.

The camera follows Serginho around during the story as he manages to get by, much like a ball that bounces off each of the components of this environment, time and again, utterly disorientated as he searches for affection and support. Teixeira makes it crystal clear that Serginho is simply not up to the task of taking on the responsibilities that are unfairly being demanded of him, and through the sheer strength of the screenplay, he shows his character – and with it the viewer – that father-son love is just as irreplaceable as it is indispensable. The director’s great achievement, however, hinges on the way in which he refuses to let the drama completely overpower the action. The well-rationed script and the pace, which is kept totally under control, are enhanced by some cinematography that encompasses a wide range of colours and continually toys with distance: when Serginho is with his mother, the stifling camera sticks to the characters’ bodies like glue, while at more encouraging moments, the frame offers more breathing space.

Teixeira has thus managed to make a work that, in spite of its dramatic baggage, does not become tiresome, and moves forward slowly but surely until it has sketched out a complete portrait not only of what constitutes an absence, but also of the consequences that this leads to among those who remain, almost as if it were a chain reaction.

(Translated from Spanish)

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