Memory House: a different picture of new age Brazil

Not long into the Brazilian film Memory House comes a moment where cattle is slaughtered with a captive bolt gun because it has aged affecting its productivity.

Watching it through the visor of his full body gear, it suddenly dawns on Cristovam, a dairy worker from the the hinterlands of the Brazilian South, that he is as dispensable as the dead cattle. After all, he was forced to take a pay cut by the company, which he had served for over two decades because the management was sure that a Black, old man like him, away from his roots, had little options.

Memory House by João Paulo Miranda Maria featured in the competition segment of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) paints a different picture of the new age Brazil, a complete contrast to the popular image of the country identified with its carnival revelry. Instead, there is the north-south divide and the simmering xenophobia and racism that marks it, of which Cristovam is a victim.

Despite investing his most productive years away in the north, he is still an outsider from the south with rants of “nigger” hurled at him at every turn. Even his sole companion, his pet dog, is not spared by xenophobic youngsters as he is destined to lead a solitary life.

That is when he chances upon an abandoned house that mysteriously throws up objects reminding him of indigenous roots, filling him up with a new-found courage that he could never muster before.

But his pent up rage over long years of discrimination and injustice builds up to a crescendo and the inevitable fate reserved for the rebellious minority befalls him.

In his video message showed before the screening of the movie, the director said he regards his work as a spiritual journey. But it far transcends the spiritual path and hammers home the everyday reality of people living on the periphery.

With its disturbing imagery, smattering of dialogues, and extensive use of silence, Memory House that premièred at Toronto International Film Festival, featured at the Cannes Film Festival and won accolades at the Chicago International Film Festival, is not for those viewers looking for instant gratification or an adrenaline rush.

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