Ebb and Flow (2014)
Directed by Gabriel Mascaro
The Brazilian filmmaker Mascaro’s half-hour-long film (which will screen together with his feature-length documentary Housemaids) follows, in closely observational and often sweet fashion, the daily routines of Rodrigo (played by Márcio Campelo Santana), a young deaf-mute man who lives with his mother and young sister in a lower-class neighborhood of Recife. Rodrigo is also HIV-positive, and by following him as he meets with doctors and jokes with friends, the film aims to show him simply as a person dealing with the problems of his everyday life. He releases stress and tension in a nightclub during some of the most beautifully fluid dancing seen on film in recent years. Rodrigo, who is seen as physically deficient and limited by others, himself possesses incredible ease and comfort in his body. In this sense, the film shares a great deal with Mascaro’s most recent feature, Neon Bull, which also shows characters moving fluidly through space as a way of adapting to challenging circumstances.
Mascaro writes by e-mail, “When the ArtAids (ESPAIN) foundation presented me with the challenge of finding a way to incorporate my artistic research into discussions around HIV and AIDS, the first idea that came to me was to try to establish a representation of reality that is often lost in the imagery of prevention campaigns. I wanted to explore aspects of day-to-day life, ‘normality,’ indifference, comings and goings, the banal. As such, the film does not deal with HIV from the perspective of its being a pathology; rather, the film reveals a sensory, bodily, and emotional experience that interacts with people, time, and space.
“The film is experimental in its approach, incorporating hybrid techniques that mix ‘reality’ (or documentary) with ‘fiction’ (or narrative). The aesthetic choices of fixed camera shots and extended time frames are intended to transmit the sensorial experiences of Rodrigo, who was chosen as the main character in order to weave a web of sound vibrations, noises, silences, doubts, and ambiguities. Rodrigo’s day-to-day life serves as a laboratory for small-scale performances in which we observe the body in movement, enacting unique gestures in time. His body is strong, yet it is also fragile. It subtly seduces us, invites us to come closer, sketching phonemes and ideograms in the air, displacing the senses and interrupting the silence. Rodrigo’s daily comings and goings draw us into a journey made up of ordinary experiences in which incommunicability and diversity are reinforced by means of their otherness. Through the glimpses of Rodrigo’s world represented in this film, ties are established between the multiple and fluid identities of his character and the various layers that his being traverses on his journey.” Aaron Cutler (April 15, 6:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Mascaro series)