- The film by Raúl Capdevila Murillo is a bitter but passionate farewell letter and tribute to a peasant world sadly forced to adapt to the system, or die out
After conquering audiences and critics alike with the ensemble film Judas (2017), shot in collaboration with Juan Carrano, Raúl Egües and Alejandra Vera, Raúl Capdevila Murillo now presents his latest film in a world premiere in the Burning Lights competition of this year’s Visions du réel. Remainders is a bittersweet portrait of a universe — that of the peasantry — which seems to vanish like the arid dust of the fields.
In Remainders, the Aragonese director turns his camera towards the daily life of his family, in the endless expanse of the countryside that hosted him during his childhood and adolescence. The undisputed protagonist of this majestic and, in the positive sense of the term, unsettling documentary set in a western landscape is José Ramón Capdevila, the director's father, a farmer who struggles to survive despite the arrival of the "Grupo Pini," an important company in the meat sector that wants to build a huge macro slaughterhouse in the region. The family farm has to deal with radical social changes, due to the increasingly dangerous and unfair competition of mega-food companies that rely on the law of the survival of the fittest.
José Ramón's already complicated life is turned upside down by the return of his son (the director himself) to Binéfar, the hometown where the latter spent the first part of his life. After leaving the countryside for the city (where he studied and worked), the director is forced to return home, where he must adapt to an everyday life made up of rituals based on the rhythms of nature, rituals which he believed belonged to the past. Remainders follows the director's backward journey on a difficult path of reintegration into an agricultural universe that is now disappearing.
The transition from the city to the countryside, from the frenetic pace of industrialisation to the apparently lethargic calm of the countryside, certainly isn’t easy and it pushes the director to observe a decline that he hoped was still in its early stages. Does it still make sense to sacrifice one's life on the altar of agriculture in a society that values only profit? What remains of the almost mystical rituals (a wonderful scene shows the son questions his father and grandmother about the "healers" of warts) of a village culture that has now become marginal? With Remainders, Raúl Capdevila Murillo tries to capture the suspended moment between hope and disillusionment, between struggle and resignation, as if to remind us that even among the losers there can be heroes. His father is in fact one of these secret heroes, a farmer who, despite his clear awareness that this lifestyle is ending, continues to believe in the power of ancestral rituals now considered obsolete.
Remainders (whose original title Los saldos translates to “the remains”) captures the cynicism of a society in which even people have an expiration date, and where consumerism overwhelms everything. Particularly powerful in that regard is the film’s setting, reminiscent of westerns and where victims and executioners are identified from the outset. Through the director's incisive insider gaze, the barren countryside surrounding Binéfar is transformed into a battlefield where one can fight despite perceiving the coming end, and impose one's own truth for the last time.
Remainders was produced by Galician company Acariño Films.
(Translated from Italian)
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